The aim of the Kremlin’s external aggressive policy is to promote the “Russian world” project, which must restore the lost positions of Russia in the European space. The main task of the Russian special services is to create new lines of division between the EU and NATO countries, as well as their neighbors. While Moscow has little success in this area, nevertheless, the growing intervention of Putin’s regime in Ukrainian-Polish relations should alert the Europeans. Warsaw and other European countries should remain vigilant at the front of the face of hybrid threats emanating from the architects of the world’s transformation to the interests of the chimera “Russian Empire”.
Divided Europe as the aim of the Kremlin’s hybrid war
In November 2017, Polish Defense Minister Anthony Matserevich, during a visit to the US, said that the regime of President Putin is preparing a war against NATO and may begin it soon. The first step in this war is already Ukraine, which should become an integral part of the re-created Russian Empire. According to him, Putin “wants Ukraine” even if by force. Then the turn of Poland and other countries will come. It will be done at any cost and “by any means” … Putin has a lot of cards in his hand. As the experience of the aggressive actions of Russians shows, starting from 2014, the Kremlin considers the hybrid war as the main instrument for conquering of neighboring nations.
The key to understanding the specifics of the phenomenon of the Russian hybrid war may be a greater interest in non-military actions of the Russian Federation. And here we should not forget that Russian non-military attacks do not focus only on the subject to which armed force actions were applied, as in the case with Ukraine now. They equally apply to the international community, potentially capable of becoming a threat to the implementation of the plans of the aggressor.
It should be remembered that the key role is assigned to special services here, which are set targets to exert influence on the international community, as well as on individual “target countries”. The intelligence services, in this context, collect information on the weaknesses of victims of potential hybrid aggression, organize sabotage networks and cultivate the fifth columns for subversive activities, discrediting opponents and provocations.
First of all, Russia dreams to split the ranks of NATO and EU members using its soft power, as well as to destroy the relations of these multinational associations with neighboring countries. In addition, there has been a tireless work to escalate the maximum number of contradictions within societies in Europe that oppose the aggressive course of the Putin regime.
In early 2014, the Polish Internal Security Agency claimed about “high activity” of Russia’s special services on Polish territory. Their main goal was to discredit the position of Poland and NATO, in particular in the matter of war in the east of Ukraine.
“An important element of Russian activity was the creation of disagreements between the EU and NATO. The anti-European and anti-American statements of mostly Euro-skeptics from the EU member states and voices criticizing the possibility of stricter policy towards the Russian Federation were put forward”, – the report of the Polish Internal Security Agency said.
Over time, these trends in subversive activities of the Russian Federation have found more and more evidence in practice, and without special modifications continue to exist even now. It starts with subversive propaganda. For example, more recently Russian propagandists – the avant-garde of the Russian special services, have all been promoting the theme that the chairman of the ruling Polish party “Right and Justice”, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, once again announced Poland’s intention to demand that Germany should pay reparations for damages inflicted on the country during the Second World War.
According to the calculations of the Sejm, Berlin remains due to Warsaw $ 48.8 billion. At the same time, the German government rejected such claims. According to experts, Germany has already paid all possible reparations, and there are no legal grounds for these claims. As can be seen, this thesis is moving forward with the aim of bringing tension to Warsaw’s relations with its key partner within the EU. The aim is obvious: introducing disorder in the ranks of the organization by exacerbating problem stories of states from past.
As early as January 2018, a new topic was launched that Poland could withdraw from the European Union. Allegedly, the current leadership of the country is keeping only financial subsidies in the EU, and the present Polish people are largely disappointed by the European Union. The issue of values is especially important for Polish society. The current liberal European values do not suit Polish society and cause quite strong rejection. It was such ideas, far from reality and common sense, projected against this background by research fellow Oleg Nemensky from Russia’s Institute for Strategic Studies. As it is known, RISS is an organization that was a part of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation.
Speaking of pressure on NATO, as usual, Moscow is systematically planted the idea that Poland is the “Trojan horse of the United States” in Europe. It is in this view that the Polish project of the “Intermarium” (“Three seas”), which Russian propagandists call Washington’s game against Berlin and Paris, is showed. Moreover, the Kremlin wants to submit this idea, as Warsaw’s hegemonic desire to lead the space between the Black, Baltic and Adriatic seas.
They will do everything in order to remove attention from their ambitions of spreading the “Russian world”, from which even the visionary inhabitants of the East of Ukraine, who live in the conditions of the occupation by the terrorist groups “DNR” and “LNR”, have already disowned. But Russia does not grieve and does not stop, because the destinies of ordinary people, including the inhabitants of Donbass, are only a step in the program to seize control of the peoples of Europe. The platforms, where the scenarios of subjugating and weakening the countries of the West are being worked out, by introducing discord in their relations, are the conflicts between Ukraine and Poland.
How and who destroys the Ukrainian-Polish brotherhood
It is not a secret that the Kremlin has been working for a long time and deliberately to bring discord into the relations between Kiev and Warsaw. Polish experts write that the growing importance of the Republic of Poland in central Europe, seen in Moscow after Brexit in 2016, the government’s clear position on the need to maintain sanctions against the Russian Federation, as well as the desire to establish cooperation with Ukraine, against which Russia is waging war, became the main area of Kremlin interest.
Since Moscow’s ambition is the collapse of a united Europe into two camps – the liberal countries of the “old EU” and the more conservative Central European countries – attempts to consolidate the countries of the Visegrad Group, the Baltic countries and Romania, aimed at cooperation with Ukraine, can cause the Kremlin’s concern.
Polish people recognize that the important role in the consolidating process is played also by Ukraine, which at least at the level of the declaration is more or less supported by all the countries of central Europe. Although there are conflicts between Ukraine and its western neighbors sometimes happen, they are quite solvable, and they are rather elements of a difficult lapping for a future life together in a single European family. At the same time, an important sphere that unites these countries is closely connected with the Russian problems, namely, counteracting the conquest by the Kremlin.
One of the leading forces in the consolidating alliance, lobbying closer cooperation with Ukraine, for a long time was precisely Poland. The country was even considered as a lawyer for Kiev in the EU. But other authorities in the republic took power speculating on the trust of the electorate on relations with Ukrainians from the historical past. In 2014 the Polish citizens were very concerned about the risk that Moscow will not stop in the Donbass and go on to war further, and Poland will be the next military goal of the Kremlin. Three years ago the theme of the Donbass in Poland was very strong and half of the materials in all publications of the country were devoted to it, but now it has come to naught. But even against this background, Poland still remains the most anti-Russian state, consistently supports the preservation of the sanctions regime against Moscow, and calls it the biggest problem for the world.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Moravetsky said in January 2018: “… what will happen in the case of the war in the Donbass when the Russian army moves deep into the territory of Ukraine? Obviously, we do not know this, but we hope that Kremlin will not do it, but it would be better if we have a second and third line of defense than if we were deprived of this type of weapon. Thus, I assess the threat from Russia. In my opinion, what Russia is doing in Ukraine is very dangerous”.
A great gift for Russians was the adoption a law that forbade accusing the Polish people of involvement in the genocide of Jews by the Sejm of the country in January 2018 of, as well as denying the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists, which caused a series of international scandals. President of Poland Andrzej Duda signed a law on the Institute of National Remembrance, which provides for imprisonment up to three years for public statements about the involvement of the Polish people in the Holocaust, as well as for denying the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists.
The Polish law led to a sharp deterioration in relations with Ukraine and Israel. It was convicted both in the US and Europe, as well as inside Poland itself. So, populists pour water on the mill of Russian interests, because Kiev and Warsaw, even temporarily, but quarrel among themselves. It is obvious that the Russian government will apply more and more efforts to delay the process of rapprochement between Ukraine and Poland in the near and distant future. This is one of the elements that allow the Kremlin to obtain significant advantages for conducting a “hybrid war” on the Ukrainian-Polish platform.
The Polish Foreign Ministry is well aware of these risks. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland Jacek Chaputovich declares that he does not want that historical disputes to weaken the ties between the Polish and Ukrainian societies. The minister was a participant of the Peremyshl conference “Europe of the Carpathians”, during which parliamentarians, representatives of local governments and experts discussed the future of Central and Eastern Europe.
The head of Polish diplomacy expressed the hope that historical issues will not become an obstacle between Poland and Ukraine: “It is about the fact that societies can get to know each other so they can learn their arguments so that historians can conduct discussions on these topics and that it is not was an obstacle in bilateral relations. I want to repeat: strategically, regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Ukraine’s defense, support in its dispute with Moscow and for the pro-European orientation of Ukraine – there is no doubt, “the Polish Foreign Minister said.
The Polish Foreign Ministry and special services realize that the “anti-Bandera law” lays the foundation for confrontation at different levels between Poles and Ukrainians in the country. According to data for 2017, Poland, on the basis of invitations from employers, issued about 95,000 visas to Ukrainian citizens. According to the information of 2016, the number of Ukrainian citizens who work in the Polish economy is estimated at 770 thousand people. Also, the number of Ukrainians visiting the country after the introduction of a visa-free regime between Ukraine and the EU is growing. Obviously, at the level of ordinary people, the two countries are getting closer and closer to each other and the Kremlin concerns about it. The aim is to destroy the atmosphere of good neighborliness.
One of the examples of such events took place on June 26, 2016 in Peremyshl. A dozen young people aged 18-20 years in black T-shirts with the inscription “Precz z Banderą!” (Bandera get out) accompanied group of Ukrainians to the grave of fighters for the will of Ukraine in Pikulichi (in 1945, almost all Ukrainians from this village were moved in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army defended the peaceful Ukrainian population, not allowing the Poles to populate the liberated territories).
First, they stood for a long time at the entrance to the Cathedral of Ivan the Baptist while the service was going on, and moved from the place when a cross-shaped move was formed. The all watched by the police. They saw how young people with posters appeared, watched as one of them run up to the participant in the procession in an embroidered black and red shirt and tore it up with the words “Nie przejdziecie!” and “Won z Polski!” (“Get out of Poland!”). Then the police reacted not very actively. Although it was obvious that the situation was very tense, and the aggravation of ethnic strife should have been of interest to the special services of Poland in search of an external trace, of course, we are talking about the Russians.
This was especially evident in the events of December 10, 2016 in Przemysl, where the “March of Peremyshl and Lviv eagles” took place. It was held under the patronage of the mayor of the city Homa Robert. During the procession, one of the participants shouted “Death to Ukrainians!”, “Peremyshl, Lviv – always Polish!” near the Ukrainian People’s House. And the people in the column supported him. After the march, the organizers said that the video of the incident is provocation aimed at creating a negative image of the city and the country, and screaming outsiders connected with Moscow.
This is confirmed by the words of the Polish Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Peklo: “For Putin’s Russia it is not so simple to create a pro-Russian lobby in Poland. But they can do something for quarrel between the Poles and Ukrainians. This is the easiest. And they can do this through history, relying on some black spots in history … The “Hand of the Kremlin” is present in the provocation that occurred in Peremyshl. This is a provocation mechanism. The factory of fakes is just a Russian method to quarrel us”, – the ambassador said.
Situations, in which only a few dozen people participated, were reflected in a large number of articles, social media posts and comments, executed by enemy statements against both nations. Though everything ended in verbal skirmishes, a wave of mutual accusations and insults on the national soil was generated.
It is worth emphasizing that these events have affected the deterioration of Polish-Ukrainian relations, primarily among citizens. In addition, this information instantly spread into the network and led to the revival of certain, still existent, mutual animosity on both sides of the border. However, mutual accusations, claims and deeply rooted resentments of small groups of Poles and Ukrainians, fueled by effective propaganda actions, can become fertile ground for all sorts of new provocations and forcing the two friendly peoples and strategic partners with foreheads.
Russia in order to implement such a scenario does not even need to use special units or so-called “green men”. It will be enough radical organizations financially supported by the Kremlin, who will beat ethnic minority representatives on the national soil, and drive the wheels of the car leading to an acute internal confrontation with Ukrainians in Poland.
How Russian special services operate under the Polish flag
Recognizing the growing risks that Russia is exerting on Polish soil and the fact that the country may become the object of a more conspicuous hybrid operation than it was in Ukraine, the Sejm special services committee held a secret meeting on March 22, 2018 to discuss the role of Russian special services in provocations with the aim of destabilizing Ukrainian-Polish relations.
“We want to learn from the heads of special services about the role of Russian special services in anti-Polish provocations and disinformation in Ukraine,” the chairman of the committee, Marek Opiola, said on March 13. They intend to hear information that the representatives of the Internal Security Agency (ABW), the Intelligence Agency (AW), the Military Counterintelligence Service (SKW) and the Military Intelligence Service (SWW), must provide.
“Together we will ask them to present a report about the role of Russians in such anti-Ukrainian activities in Poland. In our opinion, these actions are aimed at provoking and deepening discontent towards Ukrainian citizens in Poland and Poles in Ukraine, and this is part of the hybrid war of Russia”, – the head of the committee stressed. He noted that the commission will also consider the case of an attempted arson attack of the Uzhgorod Cultural Center of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine by the Poles.
As it known, the office of the “Society of Hungarian Culture of Transcarpathia” in Uzhgorod was set on fire by Polish radicals from the national-radical movement “Phalange” on February 4, 2018. Law enforcers established their identities, and declared them on the international wanted list. For an attempt to set fire to the office of the Society of Hungarian Culture of Transcarpathia, there are two right-wing radicals from Poland. This is Adrian Marglewski, born April 1, 1996, a resident of Krakow and Tomasz, Rafal Szimkowiak, born January 24, 1993, a resident of Bydgoszcz. Both are citizens of Poland, followers of the right-wing radical organization “Phalange”, whose members participated in the fighting in the Donbass on the side of the militants of the so-called “LNR” and “DNR”.
Foreigners made two attempts at arson: the first – at 1:00 am on February 4. It is known from photo and video recording. Since the consequences of the arson seemed insignificant to the criminals, at 4:08 am they committed another attempt at arson, buying petrol in a plastic container at one of the gas stations before. On the morning of the same day, the Poles traveled by bus on the Ukrainian-Slovak border through the “Uzhhorod” border crossing point.
Thanks to the rapid reaction of Ukrainian law enforcement officers, both foreigners were declared suspicious, after which they were declared international wanted. Already on February 22, the Polish Internal Security Agency, in cooperation with the Ukrainian side, detained the Poles suspected of setting fire to the building of the regional office of the organization of Transcarpathia Hungarians. With regard to the two suspects, a decision was made to have a three-month arrest, and the third detainee was given police surveillance. In the framework of this case, the Internal Security Agency considers various motives. In particular, international contacts of suspects are monitored.
If after the arson the representatives of the Hungarian side were not sociable, then after the destruction of their building on the night of February 27 they unequivocally stated that there is no person in Ukraine and Transcarpathia in particular who would have committed this crime. “We have nationalists, ultranationalists, but I do not think that citizens of Ukraine did it”. This opinion was expressed by the first deputy chairman of the Transcarpathian regional council and deputy chairman of the Society of Hungarian culture of Transcarpathia, Joseph Borto.
Cases of provocations involving Polish citizens aimed at exacerbating Ukrainian-Hungarian relations are an important example of the work of Russians under a foreign flag for the purpose of subversive operations, relying on radical organizations or individual manual politicians fed by Russian special services.
Already earlier mentioning “Phalange” is only one of them. Immediately after the collapse of the USSR, Russian intelligence decided to bet on right-wing forces throughout the liberated communist yoke in Central and Eastern Europe. Priority was given to investing and recruiting youth movements. First of all, they were less watched by the local press and special services. And also, for reasons of financial savings – young people, especially students, cost quite a small amount of money. Although with time, they grow up quite controlled and respectable deputies and ministers, the most real agents of influence. The Kremlin financed the neo-fascists far beyond the former Warsaw Pact, including covering Germany, France, Holland, Italy and Spain with its shufflers.
The most interesting case here is the exposure of an employee of the FIS of Russia Alexander Samozhnev by Polish special services. Polish secret services established that Samozhnev purposefully recruited young national-patriots of Poland. For several months they conducted surveillance to Samoshnev, but could not get a sanction for his arrest. It seems that he had a protector, which delayed the arrest.
Samozhnev was an inconspicuous man of 50 years and officially worked in a major Moscow newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. The CIA in 1995-1997 found that he had the rank of colonel of the FIS, and he was deported from the US, where he worked. In Poland, Samozhnev moved to 1999, where he immediately began working with representatives of the political party “League of Polish Families” (LPR). The Russians invested considerable financial resources in this structure.
Already in 2001, this political force received 8% of the vote in the elections to the Polish Sejm, and in 2004 – joined in the European Parliament (14%). The Kremlin used the League for additional political pressure on the coalition organized by the Americans against Saddam Hussein in 2003. Then representatives of the LPR demanded a referendum on the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq.
Later, when it was possible to nurture a young generation of Polish radicals, they got rid of this political party. It is important to point out that at that time, at the end of the 1990s, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service managed to create the organization “All-Polish Youth”, whose activists would be fully used for various provocations against Ukrainians fifteen years later, when Russia annexes the Crimea and will move troops to the Donbas.
“All-Polish Youth” occupies a youth conservative niche. Since the early 2000s, it has been associated with the national-conservative party “League of Polish Families”, funded by Russian intelligence. According to the quota of this party, the founder of the “All-Polish Youth” Roman Gertikh served as Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister from May 2006 to August 2007. But already in 2012, “All-Polish Youth” together with the “National Radical Camp” developed their own political project – the party “National Movement”. And the party “National Movement” brought the poster “Remember Lviv and Vilnius” to the march of Independence on November 11, 2017.
Now let’s return to the already mentioned anti-Ukrainian organization, right-wing radical “Falange”, some of whose members fought on the side of illegal armed formations in the Donbass. The extremist group is headed by nationalist Ukrainophob Bartosh Becker. During the participation of the “phalangists” in the armed conflict on the side of the Donbas separatists, they actively developed contacts with extremists from the Russian party “Other Russia” Eduard Limonov, whose members were engaged in recruiting mercenaries in the EU and post-Soviet countries in the interests of Russian special services.
Friendly relations were established with the “Eurasians” of Alexander Dugin, the mentor of the “first wave” separatist leaders of Donbas. The establishment of ties with the leaders of the extremely right (in fact neo-fascist) party of Hungary – “Jobbik” (“For the best Hungary”), which also having ties to the Russian intelligence service, is noted. With “Jobbik”, “Polish “Phalange” brings together xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is noted that with the beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine neo-fascists from “Jobbik” organized a picket near the building of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry under the slogan “Crimea-Russia, Transcarpathia-Hungary”. The ultra-right Hungarians declared a set of militants in the illegal armed formation “The Legion of St. Istvan”, which, like noted in “Jobbik”, is fighting in the Donbass “against the European Union and the United States” and associated power with them in Kiev.
Here we become witnesses of the formation of another plot line, namely, so to say the international assistance of Polish neo-Nazis to their Hungarian adherents. The story of arson in Uzhhorod is just a red rag for Hungarian neo-fascists, who are constantly looking for any reasons for attacking Ukraine.
When analyzing the activities of the “Phalange” it is necessary to emphasize that its leadership maintains close ties with the Polish pro-Kremlin party “Smena”. Although this political force is from a different part of the spectrum, and professes the ultra-left ideology. What makes two antipodes together? The answer is that they equally radiate extreme anti-Americanism, and at the same time declare their firm support for the course of Putin.
The Polish special services closely studied the contacts of the leader of the “Smena” Mateusz Piskorsky. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, documents from the Internal Security Agency indicate that Mateusz Piskorsky has been in constant contact with Russian special services since 2013, carried out tasks of propaganda of Russian interests in Poland, and received financial support for this. Moscow financed the “Smena” through him, which was supposed to form and support anti-Ukrainian sentiments, and also to destabilize Ukrainian-Polish relations. For this, Piskorsky was arrested in 2016.
Another example, as Russian special services disorganize relations between Warsaw and Kiev in the context of a hybrid war, is financing Polish radicals from the territory of Belarus. The groups Cyber Hunta and Cyber Alliance broke the mail of the Belarusian businessman Alexander Usovsky and found that he was a financier of the Polish radical movements. Usovsky got 100 thousand euros from people of the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who contributed to the seizure of the Crimea and participated in the early stages of the project “Novorossiya”. The funds went to organize anti-Ukrainian rallies and demonstrations under the slogan “Stop the war in Ukraine! Stop the crimes of Bandera!”. In the actions that took place in the summer and autumn of 2014, the nationalist organizations “Camp of Great Poland” and “World Congress of the Kress” took part.
The Russian special services do not disdain to use of “persons of influence”. For example, we are talking about the Polish “journalist” Tomasz Maceiichuk. He began as a Polish nationalist. Marcin Ray, the author of the project “The Fifth Russian Column in Poland”, who on the basis of open data describes the relations of the Poles with the Kremlin, wrote in detail about his contacts with this environment. Maceiichuk, as Ray notes, was one of the founders of the web site of Polish radical nationalists from the pro-Russian group “Falange” – xportal.pl. As Ray writes, Maceiichuk was connected with the Slavic patriotic camps near Moscow, which co-organized by Polish nationalists from the “Camp of Great Poland”.
But then he, under the order of Russian special services, was repainted in the “patriot of Ukraine”. Maceiichuk traveled to the ATO zone and carried humanitarian aid to Ukrainian volunteers within the framework of the “Open Dialogue” mission. Through interviews with Yarosh and the militant Givi, he becomes an expert in Ukraine and gets on the airs of Polish TV. But he secretly collected and fabricated incriminating evidence on the volunteer battalions, calling them neo-Nazi formations. His rhetoric was reduced to the fact that “Ukrainians are Nazis, we said it early”. For this, since 2015, the Security Service of Ukraine has closed entry to Ukraine from him for 5 years.
Maceiichuk and his curators did not disappoint, and he sharply turned to the camp of anti-Ukrainian video blogger Anatoly Shariy, and began to perpetuate himself in the arena of anti-Bandera rhetoric and propagandist of the “Volyn tragedy”. And soon he became a frequent patron of Russian television, an expert on Russia and the initiator of the creation of an information portal in Russian about Poland and the Polish language about Russia.
But apparently the Russian FIS has more far-reaching plans, and Maceiichuk again needs them in Poland. To whitewash his reputation, the FSB conducted the arrest of Maceiichuk and the search of his Moscow apartment “for inciting hatred towards the Russians” in February 2018. As a result, he got a legend of a political refugee from Russia. Another zigzag in the stormy biography of the young “journalist” Maceiichuk should once again alert the Polish and Ukrainian special services.
It is clear that both countries are waiting for the next round of the hybrid war from the Kremlin, especially after the prolongation of Putin’s power in the elections on March 18, which were more like a popular and non-alternative referendum. Considering that Putin received carte blanche for next 6 years, Warsaw, Kiev and the EU countries must to find joint mechanisms to counteract Russian hybrid aggression, especially with a view to limiting the destructive influence of Russian special services and their many-sided accomplices.