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Spies working for Russia disappear in Poland following release from custody

According to Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, three saboteurs convicted of taking part in a Russian plan to stoke anti-Ukrainian sentiment and to disrupt transportation networks in Poland vanished after being sentenced by a Lublin court in Dec. 2023.

Ukrainian national Yaroslav B. (44) went off the radar after the court ordered him in January to appear to serve his sentence. It sent reminders in April and May, but the search is ongoing. Artur M., a minor who was 16 at the time of his arrest, was supposed to be sent to a correctional facility but never showed up.

Belarusian Maria M., a student in Warsaw, also disappeared. She applied for parole but failed to appear in the Warsaw court, which was set to make a decision on her case. The court subsequently ordered her detention and imprisonment.

In December of last year, the Lublin District Court sentenced 14 out of 16 foreign nationals for their involvement in preparing sabotage activities in Poland. Polish security forces claim the group, which was led remotely by an individual known as «Andrei» (believed by Polish special services to be a Russian FSB officer), monitored airports, planned to blow up trains, and even plotted a murder.

This was the largest espionage network ever dismantled in Poland, and the operation was hailed as a major success for the Polish Internal Security Agency, according to the report. All those detained — 13 Ukrainians, two Belarusians, and one Russian — pleaded guilty. During the trial, two defendants refused plea deals; their trials are ongoing.

Three of the defendants were given minimal prison terms ranging from just over a year to a year and a half, and in these cases, the court lifted the requirement that they remain in pretrial detention (they had been in custody since March 2023). Now it appears that none of the three individuals in question — Artur M., Yaroslav B., and Maria M. — are currently in custody. «All the other convicted individuals are serving their sentences,» confirmed Barbara Markowska, the press secretary of the Lublin District Court.

The indictment reveals that most members of the espionage network were recruited in Ukraine and entered Poland as refugees. The investigation found that Artur M., despite being the youngest, played a crucial role in the operation. He purchased cameras to monitor the port in Jasionka, the station in Rzeszów, and other railway tracks. He also hired people to install the equipment. Due to his age, the court decided to place Artur M. in a halfway house, where he could continue his education.

Yaroslav B., a 44-year-old political scientist, worked part-time in Poland delivering groceries. The prosecution claims he provided a bank account for transferring payments for tasks completed by the sabotage group and registered SIM cards used in the cameras installed along train routes. The court sentenced him to one year and three months in prison.

Maria M., 20, also allowed money transfers to her account for the group’s operations. Additionally, she helped distribute leaflets aimed at inciting anti-Ukrainian sentiments. Before her arrest, she was a student in Warsaw. The court sentenced her to thirteen months in prison.

The longest sentences were dealt to Maxim L. and Artem A., each of whom are serving six years in prison. After their respective releases, all those involved in the case are to be deported to their respective home countries.

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