General view of a fire in a shopping complex in Warsaw, Poland, 12 May 2024. Nearly 100% of Marywilska 44 was destroyed in the fire, one of the biggest shopping centers in Warsaw with almost 1,400 commercial units, including many kiosks. EPA-EFE/LESZEK SZYMANSKI


Russia to blame for Poland arson attacks, Tusk claims

“We are examining the threads and it is likely that the Russian services had something to do with the Warsaw fire,” he said.


Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said evidence was emerging that Russia was behind at least some of the fires that hit Poland in recent days, including one that destroyed Warsaw’s largest shopping centre.

Tusk said nine people have been charged with suspected sabotage on Russian direction.

It was “likely” that Moscow was involved in the shopping centre blaze, Tusk told reporters on May 21, adding that an investigation into the possibility is “ongoing”.

“We are examining the threads and it is likely that the Russian services had something to do with the Warsaw fire,” he said.

The shopping centre fire came amid a spate of other such incidents around Poland over the period of a few days, leading to speculation that they could be the result of a Russian sabotage campaign.

Tusk later announced that three further individuals had been detained, adding to the nine arrests he had spoken of on TVN on May 20.

“We have nine suspects under arrest at the moment, with charges against them, who have engaged directly on behalf of the Russian services in acts of sabotage in Poland. This includes beatings, arson [and] attempted arson,” Tusk said.

“We are talking about paid people here. These are people from the criminal world. This includes Ukrainian, Belarusian and Polish citizens.”

He cited an alleged attempt to set fire to a paint plant in Wrocław as proof of this, saying that it had been “established beyond doubt” that the crime had been perpetrated on behalf of the Kremlin.

Last year, during the previous Conservative PiS Government, 14 foreign nationals, mostly Ukrainians working as part of a Russian spy and sabotage network in Poland, were sentenced to between one and six years in prison.

In addition to the latest arrests, three Polish nationals have been detained on suspicion of the attempted assassination of Russian opposition politicians, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Tusk also announced on May 21 that he had ordered the establishment of a Russian influence commission, despite Parliament having last year disbanded a similar body set up by the former PiS administration.

Previously, a parliamentary commission initiated by the PiS investigated Russian influence and in its interim report of November 29 last year, it suggested that Tusk and four of his ministers should not be trusted with public positions related to State security due to their acknowledgment of the Russian Federal Security Service as a partner from 2010-2014.

On the same day, the new pro-Tusk majority in Parliament dismissed the commission.

Tusk said that the new commission he was setting up would be made up of nominees appointed by Poland’s various ministries and chaired by one of the heads of counter-intelligence services.

It would not target any political party, he added

Still, he made it clear he expected it to investigate allegations against the former PiS defence minister Antoni Macierewicz, who has been accused of having direct links with Russian sympathisers.

The Polish PM also addressed the issue of the Polish border with Belarus and said 90 per cent of migrants attempting illegal border crossings were in possession of Russian visas.

He added that thousands of people from Yemen, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia were currently in camps in Russia waiting to move West.

“We have no doubts; the facts gathered by our services also confirm this: the Russian State is behind the organisation of recruitment, transport, and subsequent attempts to smuggle thousands of people,” Tusk said. He added that “currently, several concentration points have been located in Russia, where large, organised groups of thousands of  migrants are gathered”.

Former PiS PM Mateusz Morawiecki visited the border with Belarus on May 20. He said his party would press for Poland to leave the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning the use of landmines so the country could create minefields to defend its borders with Russia and Belarus.

Morawiecki argued that the war in Ukraine had proved the value of landmines in stopping tank and infantry assaults and therefore the presence of minefields on the Polish border would serve as a cost-effective  deterrent against potential Russian or Belarusian aggression.