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Poland — and NATO’s — New Espionage Scandal

October 18, 2014

Two days ago, Polish security officials arrested two men on suspicion of espionage for Russia. Given the current climate of high tension on Poland’s eastern frontier, thanks to Russia’s war on Ukraine, the timing of this arrest is important. For NATO, too, the stakes are high.

Polish officials have been tight-lipped about the case and the names of those under arrest have not been released. However, we know that one man is a colonel in the Polish military, assigned to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Warsaw, while the other is an attorney in Poland’s capital, a dual Polish-Russian national who works on economic matters.

Although the men were arrested on the same day, their cases were investigated independently; it is not yet clear whether they are linked. Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) has said little about this affair, officially not citing which country the men are believed to have spied for, although an ABW spokesman stated coyly, “I think you can probably guess which country.” Yesterday, however, a member of the parliamentary commission for the security services revealed that the men had been secretly working for Moscow, specifically for Russian military intelligence (GRU).

Anytime a colonel in the defense ministry is suspected of espionage is a moment to worry — Polish counterintelligencers will be very busy in the weeks ahead trying to assess the damage — but to make matters worse, it has been revealed that the officer had access to NATO secrets, so the Atlantic Alliance must now assume the worst. Polish counterintelligence has a long history of tangling with GRU, and the results have not always been edifying for Warsaw, as I’ve previously explained, because the Russians excel at espionage.

We can take the Polish MoD’s word that the charges facing these men are “very serious” indeed. Warsaw has promised to reveal more details of this case in a few days, and I’ll be reporting on that and giving my analysis. Watch this space.

UPDATE (18 OCT, 1400 EST): It has been confirmed that the lawyer under arrest, Stanislaw Sz., works for the Warsaw firm Stopczyk & Mikulski, where he was engaged on a project to build a terminal for importing LNG at Poland’s Baltic Sea port of Świnoujście, which has strategic significance as it is intended to reduce Poland’s high dependence on Russian LNG. He only received Polish citizenship two years ago, and according to today’s reports his main target for GRU was the Sejm, the Polish parliament, and he had compiled lists of possible recruits. In other words, he was not merely an agent but was charged with recruiting others — “news analysts, PR specialists and experts, politicians, and those employed in the energy sector.” A new statement from an anonymous source that Stanislaw Sz. “had patriotic motivations. He was professionally trained in espionage and behaved very carefully,” implies that he may be a GRU Illegal, i.e. a spy operating under what U.S. intelligence terms “non-official cover” (although the Russian concept of Illegal is a good deal more specialized in tradecraft terms) which represents a more serious problem for ABW and the Polish government. More is sure to emerge in this case.

Stach_na_stronUPDATE (18 OCT, 1630 EST) A Polish website has revealed that the lawyer suspect’s full name is Stanisław Szypowski (left), who goes by the nickname Staszek. The site includes a video clip of Szypowski discussing (in Polish) business opportunities in Belarus. He is a well-known lobbyist in Warsaw who made his presence known at the Sejm and at key NGOs, which is standard GRU practice, as I’ve explained before.

 

17 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on mrmeangenes and commented:
    Poland: always a cross roads !

  2. WJM permalink

    Well, with both Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Schroeder being so close to Putin, I’d say everything is relative.
    (saw a recent TV-docu/-biography about Mr. Schroeder; the end scene exclusively deals with his legendary statement ‘Putin ist ein lupenreiner Demokrat’, and it was a rather uncomfortable & abrupt ending, if not eiry)

    PS: this sentence in the article stumbles a bit, both in missing verb & quotation-marks:

    ‘A new statement from an anonymous source that Stanislaw Sz. “had patriotic motivations.’

    ;))

    (btw, couldn’t find a direct email-contact on the site?)

    PPS: that idiot Schroeder even warns for new sanctions (1. October):

    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/alt-kanzler-schroeder-zum-ukraine-konflikt-russland-sanktionen-seien-falsch-13185119.html

    • califax permalink

      He’s not an idiot. He knows what he’s doing.

  3. Airwalk permalink

    Stanislaw Szypowski is the lawyer and illegal GRU spy. Here’s a short interview with this guy:

    But I am sure the Polish Counterintell had both gentlemen on their radarscreen for a long time and they didn’t manage to create a lot of damage. More likely the ABW and SKW tried to figure out if they could be turned. That obviously didn’t work out so they pulled the plug on them!

    • Airwalk permalink

      I forgot to add: The short interview is in Polish. The Spy tries to explain how important it is to build up businesses between Poland and Belorussia through: joint seminars, personal contacts, visits to regions in Belorussia etc. He also underlines that there are no real barriers in Belorussia for western businesses and joint seminars and workshops are needed to show Polish businessmen how to go around these barriers with legal means. Oh boy … what a moron … 🙂

      And let me add one more thing to the whole story about this guy: If he indeed had list of possible recruits, then he was a really lousy spy. If you keep a list like that in your own home you must be really a spy à la “Austin Powers in Goldmember”. 🙂

      • Yes, he does not seem to be GRU’s top agent. 🙂

      • califax permalink

        You don’t have to be a genius if folks are just waiting for you, the money, and lawyer’s privileges to talk business. I bet there are Dozens or Hundreds of them out there, recruiting journalists, managers, activists, politicians, you name it, all over the EU.

    • Already posted, thanks — people send me good stuff! 🙂

  4. Just a thought permalink

    Good to read an article from you again. Btw, what’s your take on this weekend’s submarine hunt in the Stockholm archipelago? It’s all over the nordic media, but not much elsewhere. The Swedish military say very little.., as always.

    • Thank you! I’ve been tweeting a lot today about the “Swedish incident,” lot of detail, I will eventually write something up.

      • 4MK permalink

        yes there are reports that there will be live fire if its cornered,also that the Russians are inserting special forces into the Swedish islands and that those forces are on an offensive pre positioning mission,i thought i should drop it now i am a diplomat for a friendly force not just a ceo

  5. califax permalink

    Still waiting for wikileaks and greenwald to slam Polska’s surveillance state. It’s gonna happen soon.

    • Airwalk permalink

      @ Califax: I am Polish and I don’t mind the “Polska’s surveillance state” as you call it. I don’t break any laws (though I tend to drive too fast sometimes), I don’t fear anything so the state can look over my shoulder and they will figure out I got nothing bad on my mind and nothing to hide. If “Polska’s surveillance state” is there to protect my nation from Russians and terrorism: Fine with me. Sometimes you gotta make that trade-off. I don’t want to see a Polska drifting towards Russia like Orban’s Hungary (who obviously got corrupted by Putin) or Slovakia or the Czech Republic. The IC of Poland is a fine institution and I trust that whatever they do is to protect our country, our families and our allies.

      • starsaredestinationnotdestiny permalink

        @Airwalk: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I think I don’t have to mention whose vast mind have crafted those words.
        Btw, I’m Polish too and I think you’re talking nonsense. First, IC is as corrupted and post-Soviet as it can possibly be (e.g. trading firearms with bad guys till 2007), which leads to second – raging incompetence at any major task that they are given including protection of Polish President and third, they’ve started catching spies because they got frightened that Vlad gone crazy and the ‘new’ deals are off. That is the root cause of this situation because the only kind of motivation that ‘former’ Soviet shoe-kissers understand is fear. So yeah, they’re good at picking on the little guy, ruining lives of decent people and deceiving – first and foremost – Polish nation, which is waking up. I’ve got popcorn and 3D glasses and I’m going to enjoy that show.

      • califax permalink

        @Airwalk:
        You might have misunderstood me a bit. Anyway, wait for greenwald and wikileaks to go full force against poland.
        Though they might be busy with another attack on sweden currently.

      • V. Uil permalink

        Slippery slope logic.

        Anyone who is law abiding should not fear surveillance. After all if you are doing nothing wrong what is there to be concerned about.

        But who exactly decides that you are doing nothing wrong? And could they make mistakes?

        While I share you concern about Poland drifting towards Russia do not underestimate the dangers of a surveillance state.

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