Vol. 42 (2022)
Polish Practice

Russian Properties in Warsaw. Decades-long Polish-Russian Diplomatic and Legal Battles for Parity and the Questions of Immunities in Polish Courts

Oktawian Kuc
University of Warsaw

Published 2023-06-30

Keywords

  • State immunity,
  • diplomatic immunity,
  • Russian properties,
  • property recovery,
  • Spyville,
  • reciprocity,
  • domestic courts,
  • inviolability

How to Cite

Kuc, O. (2023). Russian Properties in Warsaw. Decades-long Polish-Russian Diplomatic and Legal Battles for Parity and the Questions of Immunities in Polish Courts. Polish Yearbook of International Law, 42, 303–332. https://doi.org/10.24425/PYIL.2023.147180

Abstract

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022 resulted in the revival of long-lasting disagreements in Polish-Russian relations. One aspect concerns numerous Russian properties in Warsaw, many abandoned or used for non-public purposes, and the disparity between both States’ properties in the other in this regard. Although the Polish Government has sought to resolve this matter amicably for many years, ulti- mately several legal proceedings were initiated in Polish courts aimed at recovering some of those premises. Only recently, however, Poland has resolved to employ more decisive steps, including the seizure of the former Soviet residential complex known as Spyville in order to enforce a final judgment. This article sketches the history of the dispute, provides an insight into court proceedings, and discusses the approach of Polish judicial institutions to diplomatic and State immunities.

References

  1. Art. 9 of the European Convention on State Immunity (signed on 16 May 1972) 1495 UNTS 181.
  2. Austrian Regional Court for Civil Matters (Vienna), E AG v. S, Appeal judgment, 40 R7/01b, ILDC 357 (AT 2001), 23 January 2001.
  3. City of Warsaw Office to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 December 2010, GK-SP-GSP-I- AWO-722-15-62-08, available in Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. II C 1792/19.
  4. City of Warsaw, Warszawa odzyskuje „Szpiegowo” [Warsaw reclaims “Spyville”], 11 April 2022, availableat: https://um.warszawa.pl/-/warszawa-odzyskuje-%E2%80%9Eszpiegowo (accessed 30 April 2023).
  5. Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, (signed 15 November 1965, entered into force 10 February 1969), 658 UNTS 163.
  6. Czech ministry summons Russian ambassador over diplomatic properties, Reuters, 31 May 2022, available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/ europe/czech-ministry-summons-russian-ambassador-over-diplomatic-property-use-doubts-2022-05-31(accessed 30 April 2023).
  7. Dekret z dnia 26 października 1945 r. o własności i użytkowaniu gruntów na obszarze m. st. Warszawy [Decree of 26 October 1945 on the ownership and usufruct of land within the City of Warsaw], Journal of Laws 1945, No. 50, item 279, as amended.
  8. Deputy Head of the Chancellery of the Sejm, Letter, 16 November 2004, available at: https://www. sejm.gov.pl/archiwum/prace/kadencja4/uzup/in86.pdf (accessed 30 April 2023).
  9. German Federal Constitutional Court, Yugoslav Military Mission, BVerfGE 15, 25 2 BvM 1/60, 30 October 1962, 65 ILR 108.
  10. German Higher Regional Court (Berlin), State Immunity Case, Anonymous v. Land Registry of Berlin, Complaint, 1 W 276/09, ILDC 2591 (DE 2010), 14 June 2010.
  11. Higgins, A., Crumbling, A., Russian ‘Spyville’ Returns to Polish Hands, The New York Times, 22 May 2022, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/04/world/europe/russia-spy-housing-warsaw.html (accessed 30 April 2023).
  12. ICJ, Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France), Judgment, 11 December 2020, ICJ Rep 2020.
  13. ICJ, Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France), Preliminary Objections, Judgment, 6 June 2018, ICJ Rep 2018, p. 292, paras. 139-141.
  14. Israeli Supreme Court Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada v. Edelson and ors, Final appeal judgment, PLA 7092/94, 51(1) PD 625, ILDC 577 (IL 1997), 3 June 1997.
  15. Kurasinska, L., Poland To Seize Russian Diplomats’ Property And Use It To House Ukrainian Refugees, Forbes, 6 March 2022, available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lidiakurasinska/2022/03/05/poland-to-seize-russian-diplomats-property-and-use-it-to-house-ukrainian-refugees/?sh=455854835f55 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  16. Lazarová, D., Foreign minister sets up working group to look into the use of real estate owned by Russian Embassy, Radio Prague International, 23 May 2022, available at: https://english.radio.cz/foreign-minister- sets-working-group-look-use-real-estate-owned-russian-embassy-875120 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  17. Mayor of Warsaw to the Minister of National Defence, 30 January 1950, PB/69/50, available in Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 68/13.
  18. Mayor of Warsaw, Decision no. 106/SD/2022, 18 March 2022, mark: SD-WS-I.6841.1493.2018.EKL.
  19. Ministry of Climate and Environment, Przejęcie nieruchomości dzierżawionej Ambasadzie Federacji Rosyjskiej przez Lasy Państwowe [Takeover of the property leased to the Embassy of the Russian Federation by the State Forests], 3 November 2022, available at: https://www.gov.pl/web/klimat/przejecie-nieruchomosci-dzierzawionej-ambasadzie-federacji-rosyjskiej-przez-lasy-panstwowe (accessed 30 April 2023).
  20. Odpowiedź podsekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Spraw Zagranicznych na interpelację nr 5313 w sprawie gruntów eksterytorialnych Federacji Rosyjskiej w Warszawie i w Karczewie [Response of the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to parliamentary question no. 5313 regarding extraterritorial lands of the Russian Federation in Warsaw and Karczew], 23 November 2006, available at: http://orka2.sejm.gov. pl/IZ5.nsf/main/08129054 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  21. Odpowiedź podsekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Spraw Zagranicznych na zapytanie nr 5501 w sprawie nieruchomości w m.st. Warszawie przekazanych ZSRR w latach 70. XX w. [Response of the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to parliamentary question no. 5501 regarding properties in Warsaw transferred to the USSR in the 1970s of the twentieth century], 28 November 2013, available at: https://www. sejm.gov.pl/Sejm7.nsf/InterpelacjaTresc.xsp?key=1E22A9F9 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  22. Odpowiedź podsekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Spraw Zagranicznych na interpelację nr 709 w sprawie nieruchomości rosyjskich w Polsce [Response of the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to parliamentary question no. 709 regarding Russian properties in Poland], 8 July 1998, available at: https:// orka2.sejm.gov.pl/IZ3.nsf/main/406958C6 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  23. Odpowiedź sekretarza stanu w Ministerstwie Spraw Zagranicznych na interpelację nr 8325 w sprawie nieuregulowanego statusu nieruchomości znajdujących się na terytorium Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, a będących w posiadaniu Federacji Rosyjskiej [Response of the Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to parliamentary question no. 8325 regarding the unregulated status of real estates located on the territory of the Republic of Poland and held in possession by the Russian Federation], 22 June 2007, available at: http:// orka2.sejm.gov.pl/IZ5.nsf/main/551A1A56 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  24. Order of the Warsaw Circuit Court, 6 February 2017, XXIV C 162/16.
  25. Oświadczenie Rządowe z dnia 10 września 2008 r. w sprawie utraty mocy obowiązującej Porozumienia między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej a Rządem Związku Socjalistycznych Republik Radzieckich o wzajemnym przekazaniu działek gruntu dla budowy ośrodków technicznych współdziałających w obsłudze maszyn, urządzeń i aparatury, dostarczanych we wzajemnej wymianie handlowej i o warunkach budowy tych ośrodków, podpisanego w Warszawie dnia 3 października 1978 r. [Government Statement of 10 September 2008 on the loss of binding force of the Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of Poland and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on mutual exchange of land plots for the construction of technical centres cooperating in servicing machines, equipment, and apparatus devices delivered in mutual trade exchange, and on the conditions of construction of those centres signed in Warsaw on 3 October 1978], M.P. No. 70, item 632.
  26. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Warsaw Circuit Court, DPT.2981.1.2018/129, 23 December 2019, available in Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. II C 1792/19.
  27. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note concerning the return (release) of properties of the Russian Federation forwarded to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, DPT/15/3/09/10/AN/165, 12 October 2010.
  28. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DAO.15.ZSRR-79-85, 13 December 1985; USSR Embassy, Note no. 106-n, 11 September 1986.
  29. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DAO.15.ZSRR-79-85, 13 December 1985.
  30. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DAO-15-ZP-29-76, 18 May 1976.
  31. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DPT 15/3/09/11/AN/151195, 7 September 2011.
  32. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DPT 15/3/09/12/AN/71342/59, 9 May 2012.
  33. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DPT 15-3-2007/AN/157, 27 June 2008.
  34. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DPT.2981.1.2013/99, 14 April 2015.
  35. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note no. DPT/15/3/09/11/AN/115032/96, 30 June 2011.
  36. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oświadczenie MSZ w sprawie przejęcia rosyjskiej nieruchomości w Warszawie [Statement of the Ministry on seizure of the Russian property in Warsaw], 11 April 2022, available at: https://www.gov.pl/web/dyplomacja/oswiadczenie-msz-w-sprawie-przejecia-rosyjskiej-nieruchomosci-w- warszawie (accessed 30 April 2023).
  37. Polish Press Agency, Warsaw takes over building ‘illegally occupied’ by Russian embassy, 29 April 2023, available at: https://www.pap.pl/en/news/news%2C1567057%2Cwarsaw-takes-over-building-illegally- occupied-russian-embassy.html (accessed 13 July 2023); Polish News, Warsaw. The town hall took over the building of the Russian school at Kielecka Street, 29 April 2023, available at: https://polishnews.co.uk/warsaw- the-town-hall-took-over-the-building-of-the-russian-school-at-kielecka-street/ (accessed 13 July 2023).
  38. Polish Supreme Court, Judgment of 13 November 2003, I CK 380/02.
  39. Polish Supreme Court, Judgment of 19 June 2018, I CSK 45/18.
  40. Polish Supreme Court, Order of 13 March 2014, I CSK 47/13.
  41. Porozumienie między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej a Rządem Związku Socjalistycznych Republik Radzieckich o użytkowaniu działek ziemi, przeznaczonych pod siedziby Ambasad w Warszawie i w Moskwie oraz budowie kompleksu obiektów Ambasady Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej w Moskwie [Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of Poland and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on use of plots of land intended for the headquarters of the Embassies in Warsaw and Moscow and the construction of the complex of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of Poland in Moscow], 11 July 1972, available at: https://traktaty.msz.gov.pl/ (accessed 30 April 2023).
  42. Porozumienie między Rządem Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej a Rządem Związku Socjalistycznych Republik Radzieckich o wzajemnym przyznaniu prawa do wieczystego użytkowania dziełek gruntu, przeznaczonych w Warszawie – pod budowę kompleksu budynków biurowo-mieszkalnych Przedstawicielstwa Handlowego ZSRR i Biura Radcy do Spraw Ekonomicznych Ambasady Związku Socjalistycznych Republik Radzieckich oraz w Związku Socjalistycznych Republik Radzieckich – pod budowę budynków biurowo- mieszkalnych przedstawicielstw dyplomatycznych i urzędów konsularnych Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej [Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of Poland and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on mutual granting of rights of perpetual usufruct over plots of land intended in Warsaw – for the construction of a complex of offices and residential buildings of the Trade Representation of the USSR and the Office of the Advisor for Economic Affairs of the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – for the construction of offices and residential buildings of diplomatic missions and consular posts of the People’s Republic of Poland], 27 December 1974, available at: https://traktaty.msz.gov.pl/ (accessed 30 April 2023).
  43. Porozumienie między Rządem PRL a Rządem ZSRR o wzajemnym przekazaniu działek gruntu dla budowy ośrodków technicznych współdziałających w obsłudze maszyn, urządzeń i aparatury dostarczanych we wzajemnej wymianie handlowej i o warunkach budowy tych ośrodków [Agreement between the Polish Government and the USSR Government on mutual exchange of land plots for the construction of technical centres cooperating in servicing machines, equipment, apparatus, and devices delivered in mutual trade exchange, and on conditions of construction of those centres], 3 October 1978, available at: https://traktaty.msz.gov.pl/ (accessed 30 April 2023).
  44. Protokół z rozmów pomiędzy delegacjami Ministerstwa Spraw Zagranicznych PRL a UPDK Ministerstwa Spraw Zagranicznych ZSRR o wybranych problemach związanych z realizacją polsko-radzieckiego Międzyrządowego Porozumienia z 27 grudnia 1974 r. o wzajemnym przekazaniu działek dla przedstawicielstw obu stron, a także dotyczących wymiany doświadczeń w zakresie obsługi przedstawicielstw zagranicznych [Minutes of talks between delegations of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs on selected problems relating to the implementation of the Polish-Soviet Intergovernmental Agreement of 17 December 1974 on the mutual exchange of plots for the missions of both Parties, as well as on the exchange of experience in the field of servicing foreign missions], 22-25 April 1987 r. (available in Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 162/16).
  45. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, 13 April 2022, available at: https://mid.ru/en/press_service/spokesman/briefings/1809211/#6 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  46. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Ministry Statement on the seizure of the Russian Embassy school in Warsaw, 29 April 2023, available at: https://mid.ru/en/press_service/spokesman/official_ statement/1866256/ (accessed 13 July 2023).
  47. SeItalian Supreme Court of Cassation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs v. Immobiliare Villa ai Pini srl and China, Appeal Judgment, Case No 19600/2008, (2009) 92(2) Riv Dir Int 596, ILDC 1371 (IT 2008), 17th July 2008.
  48. Sprzeciw od wyroku zaocznego [Objection to the default judgment], 6 December 2016, Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 162/16.
  49. Sprzeciw w sprawie wniosku Sądu Okręgowego w Warszawie o doręczenie pism sądowych [Objection to the motion of the Warsaw Circuit Court on service of court notices], 8 November 2016, Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 162/16.
  50. State Forests, Lasy Państwowe odbierają nieruchomość nad Zalewem Zegrzyńskim [State Forests take over properties at the Zegrzyński Reservoir], 2 November 2022, available at: https://www.lasy.gov.pl/pl/ informacje/aktualnosci/lasy-panstwowe-odbieraja-nieruchomosc-nad-zalewem-zegrzynskim (accessed 30 April 2023).
  51. Swedish Supreme Court, Sedelmayer v. Russian Federation, Judgment, ILDC 1673 (SE 2011), NJA 2011 475, 1st July 2011.
  52. TASS, Polish authorities in Warsaw occupy Russian diplomatic real estate — Russian ambassador, 11 April 2022, available at: https://tass.com/politics/1435943 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  53. Umowa między Rzecząpospolitą Polską a Federacją Rosyjską o pomocy prawnej i stosunkach prawnych w sprawach cywilnych i karnych, sporządzona w Warszawie dnia 16 września 1996 r. [Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Russian Federation on legal assistance and legal relations in civil and criminal matters, concluded in Warsaw on 16 September 1996], Journal of Laws 2002, No. 83, item 750.
  54. Umowa w sprawie przekazania przez Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej i przejęcia przez Ambasadę ZSRR w PRL w bezterminowe i nieodpłatne użytkowanie szkoły średniej [Agreement concerning the transfer by the Ministry of National Defence of the People’s Republic of Poland to the USSR Embassy in Poland of the high school for perpetual and free use], 15 December 1953, available at: https://traktaty.msz.gov.pl/ (accessed 30 April 2023).
  55. Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Odpowiedź na interpelację nr 12653 w sprawie bezumownego użytkowania budynków przez Federację Rosyjską [Response to the parliamentary question no. 12653 regarding non-contractual use of buildings by the Russian Federation], 14 June 2017, available at: https://www.sejm.gov.pl/sejm8.nsf/InterpelacjaTresc.xsp?key=32AB98C0&view=null (accessed 30 April 2023).
  56. Urban Planning and Architecture Department, City of Warsaw Office, Decision no. 308/76, 3 December 1976 (available in Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. II C 682/22).
  57. USSR Embassy, Note no. 79-H, 12 December 1985.
  58. Ustawa z dnia 21 sierpnia 1997 r. o gospodarce nieruchomościami [Real Estate Management Act], as amended, consolidated version of 17 September 2021, Journal of Laws 2021, item 1899.
  59. Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (signed on 22 April 1963, entry into force 9 March 1967), 596 UNTS 261.
  60. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (signed on 18 April 1961, entered into force 24 April 1964), 500 UNTS 95.
  61. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (signed on 23 May 1969, entered into force on 27 January 1980), 1155 UNTS 331.
  62. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. II C 1792/19 and case no. II C 1856/21.
  63. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. II C 682/22.
  64. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 160/16.
  65. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 162/16.
  66. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 184/13.
  67. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 184/13.
  68. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 200/16.
  69. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 68/13.
  70. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 802/15.
  71. Warsaw Circuit Court, case no. XXIV C 802/15.
  72. Warsaw Circuit Court, Order of 28 October 2015, V Ca 4126/14.
  73. Warsaw Court of Appeal, Judgment of 14 June 2004, I ACa 1707/03.
  74. Willoughby, I., Czechia eyes ending contracts allowing free rental of sites of Russian buildings, Radio Prague International, 19 February 2023, available at: https://english.radio.cz/czechia-eyes-ending-contracts-allowing- free-rental-sites-russian-buildings-8775481 (accessed 30 April 2023).
  75. Wyrozumska, A., Poland, in: D. Shelton (ed.), International Law and Domestic Legal Systems. Incorporation, Transformation, and Persuasion, Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2011.