Warsaw takes over Russia-built compound to give to Ukraine

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Polish security team guarding entrance to a compound that had been used by Soviet-era and Russian diplomats and businessmen and is being claimed back by the city of Warsaw with the intention to make it available to the Ukrainian community in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, April 11, 2022. For years Moscow has been refusing to return the popularly nicknamed "spy compound" amid a complicated legal procedure, but Warsaw authorities intensified the return process after Russia waged war on Poland's neighbor Ukraine on Feb. 24. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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 Feb. 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 the 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.

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