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11 Apr, 2022 15:30

Russian diplomatic compound seized in Poland

The building will be used to accommodate “Ukrainian friends,” according to the mayor of Warsaw
Russian diplomatic compound seized in Poland

A long-disused Russian diplomatic compound in Warsaw was seized by Polish authorities on Monday. The Russian mission objected to the move, sending a diplomatic note to the host country’s Foreign Ministry.

The breach of the facility by Polish bailiffs attracted a crowd of reporters and was attended by the city’s Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who pledged to use the building to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

“As promised, we are taking over the so-called Spyville and we will try to hand it over to our Ukrainian guests,” Trzaskowski said in a video address from the scene shared on his Twitter feed, referring to the compound by its popular nickname.

“At the moment, we are checking the technical condition of the building. I am glad that we can show that Warsaw helps our Ukrainian friends in such a symbolic way.”

The building in question was built by the Soviet Union back in 1970 under an agreement with Poland to house Soviet diplomats and their families. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the status of the building has been contested, with Polish authorities arguing that the facility did not qualify as a diplomatic property, while Moscow insists it still enjoys such status.

The breach of the compound was confirmed by Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev, who said the mission had raised the issue with the country’s Foreign Ministry.

“We immediately sent a note of protest to the Polish Foreign Ministry, in which we stated that the site where the facility is located was provided to us by the Polish authorities in the ’70s. The Polish side has not terminated this agreement and is a party to it, so this agreement is still binding,” the diplomat told reporters.

The compound has been vacant for decades and has fallen into disrepair, Andreev noted, expressing doubts over Warsaw’s plans to use it to house Ukrainian refugees.

“Due to the obstructionist position of the Polish authorities, which for many years prevented the registration of this building as Russian real estate, we were deprived of the opportunity to use it,” the diplomat said.

“It remained abandoned, degraded and desolate for many years and is currently in obvious disrepair. I do not know who is going to live there, but at the moment it is certainly unsuitable for accommodating anyone.”

The already-strained ties between Russia and Poland entered a downward spiral after Moscow launched its large-scale military operation in Ukraine late in February. Apart from seizing the contested diplomatic property and a Russian embassy school, Warsaw has also expelled a record number of Russian envoys. On March 23, Poland expelled 45 Russian diplomats, alleging they were involved in intelligence operations threatening the country and its allies.

Moscow responded in a tit-for-tat fashion, declaring 45 Polish diplomatic workers ‘personae non-gratae’ and ordering them to leave the country before April 13.

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