Poland expels 45 Russian diplomats on suspicion of espionage | International
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Poland has taken another step this Wednesday in the hard line against Moscow that it is leading, by announcing the expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats – around half of the staff of the Embassy in Warsaw – on suspicion of espionage. The 45 have “different diplomatic statuses” and a maximum of five days to leave the country, except for one, who only has 48 hours, the Foreign Affairs spokesman, Lukasz Jasin, said at a press conference at the ministry. The announcement comes on the eve of a month of war in Ukraine and hours before the US president, Joe Biden, who will visit Poland after participating in three international summits in Brussels, lands in Europe. Pawel Jablonski, Polish Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has specified to this newspaper that the expulsion is “a decision prepared beforehand and coordinated with other countries.”
Jasin has pointed out two reasons for the sudden expulsion: that “they committed activities contrary to Polish law” and that they “violated the norms of the Vienna Convention”, the 1961 text that regulates diplomatic relations and immunity. Shortly before the order was made public, the special services spokesman, Stanislaw Zaryn, had announced that the internal security agency had identified 45 people who worked as spies for Moscow or were related to those members of the secret services.
Poland’s Internal Security Agency (#ABW) has identified 45 individuals – Russian secret services officers and persons related to them enjoying diplomatic status in Poland.
Their expulsion from the territory of Poland is requested by the Head of the ABW.https://t.co/8KHIWzC45H
— Stanisław Żaryn (@StZaryn) March 23, 2022
“Russia is our neighbor, it will not disappear from the map of Europe, but the aggression against Ukraine proves that it is an unfriendly state, and even hostile, with Poland,” the spokesman added. Jasin pointed out that in any case the Russian diplomatic representation was not “in accordance” with the current state of bilateral relations between Poland and Russia, historically complex and marked by mistrust that has increased after the invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The Foreign Affairs spokesman also pointed out in his appearance that the “illegal activities of these diplomats may represent a threat” to the Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, 2.1 million people have arrived in Poland from Ukraine – among the 3.6 million who have fled to neighboring countries in the fastest refugee exodus in Europe since the end of World War II. —, according to the latest data from the UN refugee agency, Acnur, last Tuesday. Some 1.8 million of these refugees are estimated to remain on Polish territory.
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The Russian ambassador in Warsaw, Sergey Andreev, was summoned by the Polish Foreign Ministry and assured outside the headquarters that the accusations against the 45 diplomats are baseless. He clarified that they will leave within the established period because it is a “sovereign decision” to which Poland “has the right”, but warned that his country also has the right to make decisions, without specifying which ones it will adopt.
The Baltic countries and Bulgaria have taken similar measures since the war began, but Poland is the most important country in the area and one of the most pressing for NATO and the EU to harden their position towards Moscow.
On the one hand, ahead of the meeting of the Twenty-seven this Friday, Warsaw proposes to stop buying hydrocarbons from Russia, a step on which there is no consensus in the EU. In addition, at the NATO meeting he will formally propose to send a peacekeeping mission to Ukraine. This idea has very few friends because of the Alliance’s refusal to deploy the military in a state that does not belong to the organization in order to defend it from a nuclear power.
Warsaw put this proposal to NATO for the first time on the 15th in a somewhat sui generis: not from the mouth of the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, but from the deputy prime minister and leader of the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. It was during the surprise train trip to kyiv that the two made with the heads of government of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, and Slovenia, Janez Jansa, in an initiative from which Brussels distanced itself. “I think it is necessary to have a peace mission. From NATO, possibly a broader international structure, but a mission that is capable of defending itself and operating on Ukrainian territory,” Kaczynski said at the press conference after his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This Wednesday, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, was asked about it and replied that it would be “a very reckless and extremely dangerous decision.” Any contact between Russian and NATO forces “could have clear consequences that would be difficult to repair,” he added. The Alliance will hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday in which Biden will be present. He will also attend those of the G7 and the EU, from which a new round of sanctions against Russia will come out. The president of the United States will fly to Poland a day later, in a clear gesture of support for a country that fears being Russia’s next victim, despite belonging to NATO. The fifth article of the Alliance obliges the countries that are part of the organization to come to the defense of any of its members if it is attacked. On Saturday, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
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