A major spy row between Moscow and Warsaw looked to be brewing yesterday following Poland’s expulsion of nine Russian diplomats. A Polish government communique said that Russia’s ambassador to Poland had been called into the Foreign Ministry and told that each had been declared persona non grata. The nine were not identified, nor was the deadline for their departure made public. Polish government sources did say that the diplomats had been involved in “active espionage activities against Poland’s interests in 1999,” but revealed no specifics related to the case.
Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said during a visit to Portugal yesterday, however, that the expulsions were a “question of security.” He also said that the Polish government had “documented very well the espionage activities of the people whose expulsion we demanded.” A lawmaker and former counterintelligence chief, Konstanty Miodowicz, said yesterday that the Russians had used “aggressive operational resources” to gather classified information illegally. But neither he nor other government sources gave any indication of whether the Russian espionage operations had involved NATO secrets. A NATO spokesman said yesterday that the alliance had no official comment on the expulsions and that NATO regards them as a Polish internal matter.
Not surprisingly, Moscow’s reaction was an angry one. A note from the Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly accused Poland of having taken an “unfriendly and provocative step… aimed at undermining relations” between the two countries. The note also made clear that Moscow reserves the right to respond to the Polish action–a clear sign that the expulsion of Polish diplomats from Russia is forthcoming–and warned that any worsening in bilateral relations would be Poland’s fault. Russian government sources, meanwhile, said that it was the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from any country in more than ten years. They also claimed that the Polish authorities had not produced any documentation to support the allegations against the nine Russian diplomats, and suggested that the incident was somehow related to Poland’s entry into NATO. Although there have been some halting efforts to improve relations between Russia and Poland over the past year, Warsaw’s formal entry last March into the NATO alliance had kept ties between the former Warsaw Pact countries cool (AP, Itar-Tass, NTV, January 20).
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