Poland announced on Saturday that it had seized the building of the Russian high school in Warsaw, an act immediately described as "illegal" by Russia, which promised a response.
The announcement made by the Polish Foreign Ministry comes a year after the seizure of a former Russian diplomatic site, to offer it to Ukraine.
The establishment of the Russian secondary school "will now belong to the town hall of Warsaw", ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina told AFP by telephone, stressing that it is a procedure of " referral by bailiff" on behalf of the municipality.
The city of Warsaw has "taken possession" of the building, deputy mayor of the city Tomasz Bratek said in the afternoon.
"Initially, the Russian side refused to open the gate and the doors. We had to call a locksmith who, thanks to his tools, allowed us to enter the site," said Mr. Bratek quoted by the PAP agency.
"Seeing that we were not going to withdraw, the Russian side, represented by the deputy ambassador, returned the keys to us," he added.
Trucks with diplomatic plates evacuated various objects inside for a few hours.
The police and Polish officials entered the building, noted an AFP photographer on the spot.
Russia immediately protested and threatened retaliatory measures.
"It's an illegal act, an incursion into a diplomatic site," said its ambassador to Warsaw, Sergei Andreyev, in a video broadcast by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.
"Of course, a reaction will follow," he said, adding that Russia would retaliate under the "principle of reciprocity".
"The school will continue its activities in other premises of the Russian diplomatic mission, we will ensure a good end to the school year for our children and the organization of exams," said Mr. Andreyev.
In a March 2022 statement, shortly after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the Polish Foreign Ministry announced that "by their decisions having the force of law, the Polish courts have ordered (the authorities of the Russian Federation Russian, editor's note) to return the two buildings to their rightful owner, i.e. to the Polish State Treasury.
According to the Polish Ministry, the Russian Federation therefore occupied them "illegally".
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski stressed in his Twitter account in the evening that the school building "has no diplomatic status and is not protected by any immunity".
According to him, the referral was based on a decision of the Warsaw Regional Court of January 18, 2016 which, "in addition, ordered the Russian Federation to pay more than 31 million zlotys (EUR 6.7 million) plus interest to title of illegal occupation" of the site.
The Russian high school was housed in a building that belonged before the war to the great Polish tenor Jan Kiepura, then nationalized by the state in 1945 and finally handed over by the operating communists to the Soviet authorities in 1953.
According to the Polish authorities, this operation had been carried out "without legal basis".
In April 2022, Warsaw City Hall seized a former Russian diplomatic site, the subject of a legal dispute between Poland and Russia and nicknamed by Warsaw residents the "nest of spies", to offer it to Ukraine which fight the Russian forces.
It consists of ten-storey buildings built in the 1970s in the south of the capital which had been used in the past by Soviet diplomats and then by the Russian Embassy.
29/04/2023 20:08:16 - Warsaw (AFP) © 2023 AFP