Officers from Russia’s FSB security service gained inside knowledge of the workings of Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) when the previous government was in power in Warsaw, according to a report.
The Russian officers came to Poland legally, invited by Poland’s counterintelligence service at the time, Polish public broadcaster TVP Info reported on its website.
The official purpose of the visit was to work together in fighting a criminal group for several months, but in reality the FSB used this as an excuse to gain insight into the Polish security service, TVP Info said.
All this took place in the summer of 2012 — when the previous government led by the centrist Civic Platform (PO) was in power in Poland — and could well make a script for a captivating spy film: “a group of FSB officers enter Poland without a problem and work hand in hand with Poland’s ABW for several months,” the website report said.
Officially, the Russians were tracking a criminal group that was active in Poland and Russia’s Kaliningrad region, which Poland borders to the northeast, TVP Info said. But the real reason for the arrival of the FSB officers was “completely different,” it added.
“Under the guise of cooperation, they were gaining inside information about the Polish counterintelligence service,” learning firsthand about how the agency’s local branches worked to counter threats from Russia. A few months later the FSB officers left Poland “as if nothing had happened,” the report said.
After the government changed in Poland in 2015, personnel shakeups took place within the ABW. Piotr Pogonowski became the new head of the civilian counterintelligence service. In June 2016, he ordered an inquiry by the director of the agency’s security and auditing department, TVP Info said, citing an informant from within the ABW.
A report was compiled on how the ABW worked under the PO government, the tvp.info website reported.
It said it had managed to discover details of the FSB officers’ visit even though the ABW press office declined to share classified information.
According to the tvp.info website, the ABW and the FSB started cooperating in 2012 at a time when the Polish agency was headed by General Krzysztof Bonadryk.
TVP Info said it had seen documents that indicate the decision to establish cooperation between the ABW and the FSB was made after a meeting of Polish and Russian security service officers in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. The get-together was held from May 29 to 31, 2012, TVP Info added.
‘No such criminal group existed’
After this event, the ABW’s central headquarters in Warsaw dispatched a memo to its branch in the northeastern city of Olsztyn instructing it to start cooperation with the FSB. At the request of the Russians, Polish counterintelligence officers in Olsztyn opened a probe focusing on individuals named by the Russians. The FSB insisted that these people were part of a criminal group that was active in both Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave and Poland.
“There would have been nothing wrong with that: just two security services fighting crime together,” tvp.info quoted its ABW source as saying. “But in this case … it turned out that the cooperation was fictitious from the very beginning to the end. No such criminal group existed. The FSB was after something completely different.”
Thanks to the fictitious case of the nonexistent criminal group, the FSB acquired information about the ABW’s deepest secrets, according to the report. The Russians “learned about our operational capabilities,” tvp.info quoted its source as saying. “The FSB also found out about our technical capabilities and the resources we have available to work against individuals threatening Poland.”
What’s more, tvp.info said that, according to a classified note it had accessed, one of the FSB officers received permission from the ABW to work as a regular operative inside Poland. “He was supposed to work as a consultant, an observer, but in reality he did normal work as an operative,” and left Poland long after the Polish-Russian team-up was officially completed, the website quoted its ABW source as saying.
It said that the FSB officer’s activities in Poland during this time were documented in case files codenamed Operation Volga.
The ABW press office has declined to comment if the agency’s new bosses have notified prosecutors of suspected irregularities by their predecessors, tvp.info said.
“The Internal Security Agency does not make public information about any cases or activities being conducted, regardless of whether or not proceedings are undertaken in any specific case,” the website quoted the ABW press office as replying.