Poles Suggest Attacks Politically Motivated
Poland's ambassador on Thursday filed a formal complaint to the Foreign Ministry over two attacks in four days on embassy staff, and the embassy suggested in a statement that the attacks might have been politically motivated.
Marek Reszuta, second secretary at the embassy, was attacked from behind by an unidentified assailant at about 1 p.m. Wednesday on Tishinskaya Ploshchad, a short walk from the embassy at 4 Ulitsa Klimashkina. Two men beat Andrzej Uriadko, a telecommunications worker at the embassy, about 60 meters from the embassy on Sunday afternoon. Both men were hospitalized.
Following the assault of Uriadko, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomasz Szeratics declined to speculate whether the incident happened in response to the mugging of three children of Russian Embassy diplomats in Warsaw in late July.
But in a statement Wednesday evening, the Polish Embassy said it was "beginning to think that [the attacks] concern hooligans with misguided, but well-defined, political beliefs." The statement also expressed "serious concern regarding the continuing threat to the safety of Polish citizens" in Russia.
Polish Ambassador Stefan Meller on Thursday delivered a diplomatic note to the Russian Foreign Ministry to protest the two attacks, an embassy spokeswoman said.
Meller could not be reached for comment, but diverging from the political connection suggested by the embassy statement, he told Interfax the attacks "in and of themselves don't have a political context," but that they are becoming political in nature "against our will."
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "deeply regretted" the beatings and hoped they would "not be used to inflate tensions in Russian-Polish relations."
The teenage sons of Russian diplomats were beaten and robbed of their cell phones in a Warsaw park on July 31, an attack that President Vladimir Putin publicly denounced as "an unfriendly act that cannot be characterized as anything other than a crime."
Shortly after Putin spoke, the Foreign Ministry demanded a formal apology and claimed that anti-Russian attitudes had inspired the attack.
A senior officer in the Warsaw city police said two suspects had been detained in the park attack and that it was "just a matter of time" before other suspects were detained, Gazeta Wyborcza reported Thursday. The two were detained on suspicion that they received goods stolen during the attack, The Associated Press reported.
The Foreign Ministry promised to beef up security around the Polish Embassy following both attacks. Typically there are two policemen on duty at the compound, but following the first attack, five policemen were assigned to daytime duty and four to the night watch, police spokesman Kirill Sharov said.
After Wednesday's attack, additional guards from the city police's 15th division, which specializes in guarding embassies, were assigned to the compound.
On Thursday afternoon, two sets of two-man teams from the division were circling the sprawling compound near the Ulitsa 1905 Goda metro station, automatic weapons slung over their backs as they walked under heavy rainfall.
A policeman on standing duty said nine police officers were guarding the embassy at all times, with two reserves ready to fill in during breaks.
Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, which tracks xenophobia and racially motivated attacks, said radical nationalist organizations could be behind the beatings, given the heavy anti-Polish sentiment in their literature. "They could be trying to make their presence felt and capitalize on anti-Polish sentiment in Russian society," Brod said.
Meanwhile, Zavtra, a nationalist newspaper, posted a poll on its web site Wednesday morning, asking visitors to vote on which of 12 nationalities they would most sympathize with if "they were beaten up on the street somewhere in Russia."
Out of the 744 votes cast by Thursday evening, only 37 went to Poles, putting them just ahead of Georgians and Chechens (36 each) and Western Ukrainians (33). Latvians garnered the least votes (15), while the Chinese got the most (164). U.S. citizens got 73 votes.
In a poll of 3189 Ekho Moskvy listeners on Wednesday, 61 percent said Russia should apologize to Poland for the attacks, while 39 percent said no apology was necessary.