Warsaw takes over Russia-built compound to give to Ukraine amid war

Ukraine's ambassador, Andrii Deshchytsia, told Poland's state news agency PAP that Ukraine will file to lease the compound, which could be used for a school or a Ukrainian culture center.

Published: 12th April 2022 10:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2022 10:23 AM   |  A+A-

Polish security team guarding entrance to a compound that had been used by Soviet-era and Russian diplomats and businessmen. (Photo | AP)


WARSAW: A disputed compound in the Polish capital of Warsaw administered by Russia's diplomatic mission is being taken over by the city and will be made available to the Ukrainian community, the mayor said Monday.

Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski was at the site early Monday and said a bailiff had entered the two apparently empty, fenced buildings, nicknamed "Spyville" by Warsaw residents, to check on their condition and to mark them as seized by the city.

Trzaskowski said Warsaw was getting back the compound "unlawfully" occupied by Russia.

Last month he said Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine added urgency to the decades-long procedure.

"It is very symbolic that we are closing this procedure of many years now, at the time of Russia's aggression" against Ukraine, Trzaskowski said on Twitter.

Ukraine's ambassador, Andrii Deshchytsia, told Poland's state news agency PAP that Ukraine will file to lease the compound, which could be used for a school or a Ukrainian culture center.

One of Trzaskowski's proposals for the 100-odd apartments there is to accommodate war refugees from Ukraine.

More than 2.6 million of them have crossed into Poland since the Russian invasion began.

Photos from inside the buildings were published later Monday by the Onet.pl news portal.

They showed peeling paint, broken glass on the floor and torn-out flooring.

Russia's Embassy, which had the tall apartment blocks built in the 1970s on land obtained from the city, has been refusing court orders to pay to lease the land or hand it over.

Once busy, the buildings became empty in the 1990s, after Poland shed its communist rule and Soviet Union's dominance in 1989, and after the Soviet Union itself dissolved in 1991.

Ever since, Poland has been saying that the contract for the lease of the plot of land had expired and demanded that it be returned.

But its gates remained closed and guarded.

Russia's diplomatic and business missions have much more property in Poland than Poland has in Russia, which is in violation of reciprocity rules, according to Poland's Foreign Ministry.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged South Korea on Monday to provide his country with arms to help it fight Russia's military.

Zelenskyy made the request in a video address to South Korean lawmakers that came hours after Seoul's Defense Ministry confirmed it had rejected a Ukrainian request for anti-aircraft weapons during a call between the countries' defense ministers last week.

The ministry cited the South Korean government's principle of limiting its military help to Ukraine to non-lethal supplies.

"The Republic of Korea has tanks, ships and various equipment that can block Russian missiles and we would be grateful if the Republic of Korea could help us fight back against Russia," Zelenskyy said, using South Korea's formal name.

"If Ukraine is able to receive such weapons, it will not only help us save the lives of our ordinary citizens but also provide Ukraine an opportunity to survive as a nation, and also help prevent other countries from being attacked by Russia," said Zelenskyy, whose comments were dubbed over by a translator during the televised speech.

Joining U.S.-led international sanctions against Moscow, South Korea has already banned the export of strategic materials to Russia and ended transactions with key Russian banks and sovereign wealth funds.

Zelenskyy thanked South Korea for those efforts but said sanctions alone haven't been enough to meaningfully stop the Russian aggression.

"Russia doesn't care how many people die," he said.

Zelensky highlighted Russia's takeover of Mariupol, where he said at least tens of thousands of citizens were likely killed.

He briefly stopped his speech to play a graphic video showing buildings hit by rockets, Russian tanks firing as they rolled through destroyed streets and people wailing over dead relatives at overwhelmed hospitals.

He said Ukrainian forces haven't been able to enter Mariupol since the start of March and that Russian forces have cut off humanitarian shipments.

"This war is far from over," Zelenskyy said.

"Russia is aiming to end Ukraine's independence and separate the country. It is trying to eliminate the culture and language of the Ukrainian nation."

Slovakia on Monday denied its S-300 air defence missile system it transported to Ukraine has been destroyed by the Russian armed forces.

"Our S-300 system has not been destroyed," Lubica Janikova, spokeswoman for Slovakia's Prime Minister Eduard Heger, said in a statement.

She said any other claim is not true.

Earlier on Monday, the Russian military said it destroyed a shipment of air defence missile system provided by the West on the southern outskirts of the city of Dnipro.

The Russian side said Ukraine had received the air defence system from a European country that he didn't name.

Last week, Slovakia said it has handed over its Soviet-designed S-300 air defence systems to Ukraine, which has pleaded with the West to give it more weapons, including long-range air defense systems.


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