Poland forms Russian influence commission as spy fears grow

FILE PHOTO: Danish Prime Minister Frederiksen meets with Polish Prime Minister Tusk in Warsaw
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WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland's prime minister announced on Tuesday the re-establishment of a commission to look into undue Russian influence, as Warsaw grapples with what it says is an intense campaign by Moscow to destabilise the country.

While Poland has long said that its position as a key distribution hub for supplies to Ukraine makes it a major target for Moscow's spies, the defection of a judge to Russian ally Belarus this month put Poland on high alert.

"I issued an order on the establishment of a commission to investigate Russian and Belarusian influence on the internal security and interests of the Republic of Poland in the years 2004-2024," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference.

He named the head of the Military Counterintelligence Service, General Jaroslaw Strozyk, as head of the commission.

Reviving the commission marks a turnaround for Tusk. The body was formed last year by Poland's previous nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government and condemned at the time by Tusk's Civic Coalition (KO) grouping as a vehicle for a witch hunt against him, as it could ban politicians from office.

Tusk said the commission would consist of 9-13 members, who would be chosen next week from recommendations from government officials including the interior, defence and foreign ministers.


Tusk told private broadcaster TVN24 on Monday that Poland had arrested nine people in connection with acts of sabotage committed on the orders of Russian services. He said the crimes incidents included "beatings, arson and attempted arson".

On Tuesday he said that a further three people had been arrested overnight.

"Our services are working really efficiently when it comes to attempts at... sabotage in Poland and neighbouring countries," he said, mentioning Latvia and Lithuania as countries affected.

He said that investigators were looking into whether Russia was involved in a huge fire in a shopping centre in Warsaw this month.

In response to an emailed request for comment, the Russian embassy in Warsaw said that it was not its role to comment on "various types of insinuations in the form of 'conspiracy theories'".

Tusk said earlier this month Poland would allocate an additional 100 million zlotys ($26 million) to its intelligence services due to the threat from Russia.


Poland's border with Belarus has been a flashpoint since migrants started flocking there in 2021. The EU accused Belarus of gathering people from the Middle East and sending them across the border illegally to create a crisis.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in migrants trying to cross, and Tusk said most of them now had Russian visas.

"It is disturbing that the pressure on the eastern border is not spontaneous migration... over 90% of those who cross the Polish border illegally are people with Russian visas," Tusk said.

He said that migrants from Africa were travelling to Russia via the Middle east and then being transported to Poland's border with Belarus.

On Saturday, Tusk said Poland would invest 10 billion zlotys in a programme to secure the eastern border.

($1 = 3.9176 zlotys)

($1 = 3.9152 zlotys)

(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz and Karol Badohal; Aditional reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Alex Richardson, Peter Graff and Nick Zieminski)