WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities accused a Russian journalist working for a pro-Kremlin news agency of posing a threat to Poland's security, saying Wednesday that he should lose his right to reside in Poland and the European Union.
The case comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine. Poland is one of the most outspoken European voices in favor of sanctions against Russia, and ties between the Slavic neighbors have been particularly strained lately.
There are still more questions than answers at this point surrounding the case of Rossiya Segodnya agency journalist Leonid Sviridov. Polish authorities have never specified what suspicions or evidence they might have, keeping all details of the case top secret.
Poland's Internal Security Agency declared him a "danger to the Polish state" last year. The Foreign Ministry stripped him of his journalist's accreditation and the office of the governor of Mazovia, the province where Warsaw is based, opened an investigation.
The governor, Jacek Kozlowski, said Wednesday that after months of investigation he agreed with the security agency's assessment that Sviridov is a threat to Poland and should be stripped of his right to remain in the country.
Kozlowski said he cannot reveal those details for national security reasons, but that he has seen all the evidence against Sviridov and that it is "strong."
"I feel certain that his presence in Poland is harmful to the Polish state," Kozklowski told The Associated Press in an interview in his office. "I have no doubts that this is the right decision."
Sviridov said he hasn't been told what the suspicions are, but said he believes he is suspected of espionage, in part because he was first named as a danger to Poland at a time last year when other people suspected of spying for Russia were arrested or forced to leave Poland.
He insists, however, that he never engaged in espionage, and says he would have been arrested long ago if Polish authorities had real evidence against him.
"If I were really suspected of espionage there would be a completely different procedure, including prosecutor, handcuffs and court," Sviridov told the AP in an extensive interview earlier this year.
Kozlowski said it has simply taken time to follow all the legal procedures.
He said that Sviridov's wrongdoing involved activities beyond his journalistic duties. "It's not his views and it's not what he wrote that is key," Kozlowski said.
Sviridov has the right to appeal the decision to another state body, the Office for Foreigners, and said he would do that.
He vowed Wednesday to use every legal option to stay in Poland, including going to the European Court of Human Rights.
"I will defend myself to the end," he told the AP on Wednesday.
He lives in Warsaw and is still able to work as a reporter though he lost his journalist's accreditation. He says that has not stopped his contacts from speaking to him.