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Russian Journalist Suspected of Espionage Forced to Leave Poland

FILE - Russian journalist Leonid Sviridov speaks to the press after a three-hour meeting with officials concerning an earlier attempt by Polish authorities to expel him from the country, in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 26, 2014.

A Russian journalist who has come under suspicion of espionage in Poland - but who has never been confronted with specific spying accusations by Polish authorities - is being forced to leave Poland.

Leonid Sviridov told The Associated Press on Thursday that he will leave Warsaw on Saturday after running out of legal options for staying on in Poland, where he has worked as a journalist for many years.

The 49-year-old, who writes for RIA Novosti, part of the pro-Kremlin Rossiya Segodnya news service, insists he never acted as an agent for Russia and that he will fight for the right to return to Poland.

Sviridov said he is appealing the Polish decision that strips him of the right to residency. The case will go to a Polish court in the near future, though he will not be able to defend himself in person. Should that fail, he said he plans to sue Poland at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“I hope to return to Warsaw, and I hope it will be next year,” he said in a phone interview.

Political undertones

His case has played out for the past 14 months amid deep tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine. Poland has been one of the most outspoken European voices in favor of sanctions against Russia, and ties between the Slavic neighbors have been deeply strained.

Sviridov's problems with the Polish authorities began in October 2014, when Poland's Internal Security Agency declared him a “danger to the Polish state” and the Foreign Ministry stripped him of his journalist's accreditation.

Months later, the governor of Mazovia, the province where Warsaw is based, investigated and said it agreed with the security agency's assessment that Sviridov threatens national security.

“I feel certain that his presence in Poland is harmful to the Polish state,” Jacek Kozklowski, the governor of Mazovia, told the AP this year.

Sviridov has told the AP he is innocent of spying. He also says if he were really guilty of wrongdoing, authorities would not have allowed him to remain in Poland for so long as the administrative case against him dragged on slowly. He said he is angry that he has never been given access to the secret file against him.

“Everything is still secret,” he said. “They have never revealed any of their accusations against me.”