Scene of a Polish rail accident in 2017 in Rudki. This time there was no accidents but the unauthorized use of stop signals on radio frequencies used by the railways is a cause of concern for Polish security professionals (EPA-EFE/Piotr Polak)


Polish rail traffic disrupted by rogue radio signal with Russian national anthem played


A series of incidents on Poland’s railways have raised security concerns after a number of trains were halted by unofficial “stop” radio-signals. Two men have been detained.

The disruption was caused by unauthorised use of railway radio frequencies where a signal was sent out that activated the “stop” alarm function. After the affected trains came to a halt, the Russian national anthem was played together with a fragment of a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Poland’s internal security agency (ABW), the police and rail companies have launched an investigation into the signals being sent to trains in several parts of the country.

On August 26, an unauthorised signal halted trains near the city of Szczecin, although there was no danger for passengers. Earlier in the week, a freight train and regional passenger train were involved in a minor collision and an inter-city train was derailed in the North-East of Poland.

Another case occurred in the North-West took place the following day, halting a freight train but causing no disruption to passenger trains. There have also been reports of similar incidents in North-Eastern Poland and in the Baltic region close to the city of Gdańsk. These did cause some minor passenger-traffic delays.

Two men aged 29 and 24 were detained on August 27 in Białystok in North-Eastern Poland for sending unauthorised radio signals on frequencies used by the rail system. Despite that, after the two men were picked up there were further reports of such incidents in the South-Western city of Wrocław.

Stanislaw Zaryn, the deputy coordinator of the Polish intelligence services, said the ABW was investigating the incidents. He admitted that sabotage might be the cause.

“We know that attempts to destabilise the Polish state have been going on for months. Such attempts were being carried out by the Russian Federation in cooperation with Belarus, and for this reason we are not underestimating any signals that reach the ABW.”

The involvement of the ABW comes a day after Zaryn was asked it to look into an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the South-Eastern city of Rzeszów that has so far claimed eight lives. On August 27 a case of  Legionnaires’ disease was also  reported near the city of Kraków in Central-Southern Poland.

Earlier this year, the ABW arrested members of an alleged Russian spy-ring that was apparently tasked with carrying out acts of sabotage on Polish railways to disrupt the supplies of arms to Ukraine. According to the Washington Post, 12 out of the 16 individuals detained are citizens of Ukraine, some of whom found their way into Poland after fleeing the war at home.

Kamil Basaj of the Polish Government’s information security team told Brussels Signal that the latest incidents fit neatly into a pattern of psychological warfare Russia often engages in.

“These moves are all designed to build up the feeling of the country being under threat,” he said, adding that such actions are meant to “discredit the state and its structures and make people feel that security has been undermined, taking them out of their comfort zone”.

Poland and the Baltic States have also been subject to cyberattacks that allegedly originated in Russia. They also accused both Belarus and Russia of being involved in facilitating illegal migrant crossings across their borders.