Poland has detained a Russian ice-hockey player playing for a first-division Polish team on spying charges, prosecutors said on Friday, describing him as the 14th person that had been arrested from one espionage network.
A key hub for western military supplies to Ukraine, Poland says it has become a major target for Russian spies and it accuses Moscow of trying to destabilize the country.
"Russian spies are falling in one by one!," Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro wrote on Twitter. "A spy who acted under the guise of an athlete was caught. The Russian was a player of a first division club."
Rosyjscy szpiedzy wpadają jeden po drugim! Kolejny sukces śledczych @PK_GOV_PL i ABW. Schwytano szpiega, który działał pod płaszczykiem sportowca. Rosjanin był zawodnikiem 1-ligowego klubu. To już 14 zatrzymany członek rozpracowanej przez nas siatki szpiegowskiej. Dziękuję…— Zbigniew Ziobro | SP (@ZiobroPL) June 30, 2023
The hockey player was taken into custody in the southern Polish region of Silesia, prosecutors said in a statement. The player and his team were not publicly identified. Prosecutors said he had arrived in Poland in October 2021.
What did he do?
According to prosecutors he carried out activities including identifying critical infrastructure, for which he received payment. He will be kept in pre-trial detention and could face up to 10 years in prison.
The Russian embassy in Warsaw did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
In March Poland said it had broken up a Russian espionage network operating in the country and detained nine people it said were preparing acts of sabotage and monitoring rail routes to Ukraine.
Russia demands explanation
In April it said it was introducing a temporary 200-meter exclusion zone around its Swinoujscie Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, citing concerns about Russian espionage.
Russia has demanded an explanation from Poland over its arrest of Russian citizens, state news agency RIA reported on Friday, citing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
The player and his team have not been publicly identified.