Poland denies secret plan for Ukraine
Poland has denied claims by Moscow's spy that it plans to take over a portion of Ukrainian territory, calling it a “Russian information operation” aimed against Warsaw and Washington.
The Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin warned on Thursday that Poland might be plotting with the US to occupy western Ukraine with “peacekeepers” under the guise of military exercises – which the Poles insist are still scheduled and completely unrelated.
“Russia’s intelligence chief is spreading insinuations against Poland and the US, convincing falsely that both countries are preparing ‘a Polish annexation of western Ukraine’,” Stanislaw Zaryn, the spokesman for the ministry in charge of security services, tweeted on Thursday evening.
“The highest officials of the Kremlin are joining in the denigration of Poland,” Zaryn complained, noting that “lies” about Warsaw’s alleged designs on Ukrainian territory have been around for years, but intensified after “Russia’s invasion.” He spoke on behalf of Mariusz Kaminski, the Polish interior minister and coordinator of secret services.
Naryshkin had said on Thursday that Poland and the US were working on a plan for territories in western Ukraine that Warsaw regards as “historically belonging” to Poland. The first phase of the “reunification” project would see Polish troops deployed there as “peacekeepers” under the pretext of protecting Ukraine from “Russian aggression,” Naryshkin outlined in a public statement.
Upon its reconstitution in 1919, Poland claimed territories that are now part of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, known as Kresy Wschodnie, or “eastern borderlands.” Cities like Lwow and Stanislawow – known as Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk in present-day Ukraine – ended up in the USSR after WWII, however, as Poland’s borders were shifted westward to the Oder-Neisse line.
Even as Warsaw vehemently denied Naryshkin’s claim, the Polish Ministry of Defense said it was proceeding with large-scale military exercises near the Ukrainian border, starting May 1. The Polish public were warned that “columns of military vehicles” would be moving on “highways, expressways and national roads,” and urged not to film the traffic.
“We make an appeal to the public,” the military said. “Please do not publish information and photos showing troop movements and their location, dates and times of travel of military columns, [or] data on departures and landings of military aircraft,” as this could have a negative impact on the “security and defense” of Poland.
Naryshkin had claimed that Poland was looking to use a “peacekeeping” operation as cover for the land grab, and seeking out “reliable” Ukrainian politicians in the targeted territories.
Poland has taken in over three million Ukrainian refugees, this year. It has shipped some of its Soviet-era tanks and other equipment to Ukraine, and is currently a major hub for NATO military aid to Kiev.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.