Poland detains two Russians over recruitment posters for Wagner Group

Poland has detained two Russians who are accused of being responsible for the recent appearance in Warsaw and Kraków of posters seeking to recruit mercenaries to the Wagner Group, the Russian private military company that has played a prominent role in the invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

Last week, reports emerged of stickers with the Wagner’s skull logo appearing in public places in Poland’s two largest cities. “We are here. Join us,” they read, along with a QR code that leads to a Russian website with information about the group.

In one video shared on social media, a man who had reportedly been putting the stickers on rubbish bins along the riverfront in Warsaw was pictured.

On the streets of #Poland in public places appeared stickers with the symbols of PMC “#Wagner” and the call to join them.

It is still unknown whether the mercenaries are really trying to recruit Poles, or whether the stickers are distributed by Russian agents for psychological… pic.twitter.com/qAZMtaKLnw

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) August 12, 2023

This morning, interior minister Mariusz Kamiński announced that the Internal Security Agency (ABW), in cooperation with the police, had “detained two Russians who were distributing propaganda materials of the Wagner Group in Kraków and Warsaw”.

He revealed that both men had heard charges of espionage, among other alleged crimes, and were being held in detention. Under Polish law, it is also a criminal offence to enlist either Poles or foreigners resident in Poland to a foreign army, military organisation or mercenary group.

Later, a spokesperson for Kamiński told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the Russians – named only as Aleksiej T. and Andriej G. under Polish privacy law – had posted around 300 leaflets in public places. They were also in possession of “over 3,000 propaganda materials, which were handed to them in Moscow”.

The spokesperson revealed that investigators had established that the two men were to be paid up to 500,000 rubles (€4,525) for their work distributing the materials before planning to leave Poland on 12 August.

ABW współdziałając z Policją zidentyfikowała i zatrzymała dwóch Rosjan, którzy w Krakowie i Warszawie kolportowali materiały propagandowe Grupy Wagnera. Obaj usłyszeli zarzuty, dot. m. in. szpiegostwa, i trafili do aresztu.

Wkrótce więcej informacji.#SkutecznieChronimyPolskę

— Mariusz Kamiński (@Kaminski_M_) August 14, 2023

“The actions of the suspects were part of the so-called hybrid war against the EU and NATO,” added Karol Borchólski of the National Prosecutor’s Office, who said that findings indicate the pair had conducted similar activities in other EU cities, including Berlin and Paris.

As well as espionage and foreign recruitment charges, the duo have also been charged with participation in an international criminal association that aims to commit terrorist crimes, said Borchólski. They could face up to ten years in prison if convicted.

Poland has this year detained over a dozen foreign nationals suspected of being part of a network spying on behalf of Russia.

The 14th member of the alleged Russian spy network – a professional ice hockey player – was detained in Poland last month https://t.co/EVnnTqHRuw

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 10, 2023

The Wagner Group, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, once a close ally of Vladimir Putin, recently relocated some of its forces to Belarus following a failed rebellion in Russia itself. Its mercenaries have been engaged in training exercises with the Belarusian military, including near the border with Poland.

That – along with a continued migration crisis orchestrated by Belarus – has prompted Poland to boost security along the border, including plans to increase the number of troops there to 10,000.

Poland has been one of Ukraine’s closest allies since Russia’s invasion, providing military, humanitarian and diplomatic support. Polling has also found Poles to have among the world’s strongest anti-Russian attitudes.

Poles dislike Russians, Belarusians, Hungarians and Germans much more now than before the invasion of Ukraine, finds a study by @CBOS_Info.

Meanwhile, they like Ukrainians, Americans and the English much more.

For more details, see our report: https://t.co/pbavexH2mm pic.twitter.com/rucZ1WR1xG

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 27, 2023

Main image credit: Łukasz Wantuch/Facebook

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