(Bloomberg) -- Polish authorities are stepping up security around the main transit hub for foreign military aid to Ukraine as a series of arrests announced this week lay bare mounting concerns over Russian-backed sabotage operations. 

Interior Minister Tomasz Siemoniak confirmed that measures are being taken to boost security around the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport. Located less than 100 km (62 miles) from the Ukrainian border, the facility has handled as much as 90% of western materiel headed to the frontline. It’s also become a main stopover point for foreign officials visiting Kyiv.  

“We are facing a foreign state that is conducting hostile and — in military parlance — kinetic action on Polish territory,” Siemoniak said in an interview in Warsaw, without elaborating on security measures at the airport. “There has never been anything like this before.”

The minister said Poland is grappling with an unprecedented level of foreign interference after Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that as many as 12 people had been detained as part of a crackdown on alleged acts of sabotage directed from Russia. The cases involve arson, attempted arson as well as physical attacks.  

The role of Rzeszow-Jasionka airport as part of Kremlin-backed operations came to light in April. Prosecutors said they arrested a male suspect accused of assisting a plot to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The man was allegedly prepared to collect information on airport security as part of the plan. 

Setting Things on Fire

In March of last year, sixteen foreign nationals were detained on suspicion of taking part in a surveillance network monitoring deliveries to Ukraine in the southeastern Subcarpathian region, which includes the regional capital Rzeszow. Polish agents seized cameras, electronic devices and GPS transmitters. 

The critical role of the airport hasn’t diminished. The US has resumed shipments of weapons and materiel after Congress approved a $61 billion package that was held up for six months by Republic resistance — a delay that left Ukrainian forces struggling with dwindling stocks of ammunition. 

As part of Poland’s investigation, authorities are looking into a Kremlin role in a fire that burned down a shopping center in Warsaw earlier this month. Another case involved an alleged attempt to set on fire a paint factory in the western city of Wroclaw.

Siemoniak said recent acts were being ordered by Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, adding that similar methods are being deployed across Europe. They usually involve recruitment of what he described as “one-time agents,” such as football hooligans or organized crime groups who are prepared to carry out such acts for money, he said. 

The minister called it a “very serious situation,” since Russian services were now acting much more deliberately on foreign territory. 

“We’re no longer talking about agents of influence or some online activities,” Siemoniak said. “These are individuals who are ready to come and set things on fire.”

Appointed as the minister overseeing the domestic intelligence services, Siemoniak received the interior portfolio this month after Tusk reshuffled his cabinet ahead of the European Parliament election in June. He served as defense minister in Tusk’s previous administration from 2011 to 2015. 

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