Police cordon off Ukraine embassy in Potugal after ‘suspicious’ items received
Ukraine’s embassy in Lisbon received two suspicious envelopes on Monday and called in the PSP police force, whose officers were on site late afternoon with resources from its Special Police Unit, a police source told Lusa.
The embassy confirmed to Lusa that it had called in police after having identified “suspicious correspondence”.
According to the police source, the call came at around 3 p.m. and by 5 p.m. teams from the Special Police Unit’s Centre for the Inactivation of Explosive Devices and Underground Security were still on the scene dealing with the suspicious envelopes.
Traffic on Avenida das Descobertas, in the Restelo district, on which several embassies are located, was cut off and a security perimeter set up around the area.
“Today we received the suspicious correspondence that other [Ukrainian] missions had already received last week,” a source from Ukraine’s embassy told Lusa.
The same source was not in a position to specify the contents of the items delivered by a postman, as they had immediately aroused suspicion and were not opened, but instead the police immediately alerted.
The “suspicious features” of the correspondence, which according to current embassy security protocol cannot be accepted, had to do with “the format and the sender,” the embassy source said.
“The staff immediately saw that [the correspondence] was suspicious, alerted the police and the postman ended up being held” on the embassy premises, where police officers were still present “in large numbers,” the source added.
On Friday, the office of the Secretary General of the Internal Security System (SSI), Paulo Viseu Pinheiro, announced to Lusa that the Portuguese authorities had stepped up protection for Ukraine’s embassy in Lisbon and might re-examine the threat level in Portugal as a whole, after booby-trapped letters were received by entities in Spain.
According to the SSI, the Anti-Terrorism Coordination Unit (UCAT), which operates within the Internal Security System, “is closely monitoring the situation” and it is working in “close articulation with its Spanish, European and international partners.
“If, as a result of this cooperation with Spain and international partners, and of our internal analysis, a re-examination of the degree of threat and security is justified, the competent authorities will immediately take the corresponding and appropriate alert measures and security arrangements,” the SSI secretary-general’s office added.
The UCAT is made up of representatives of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) – which assesses the level of threat on national territory – the Judicial Police (PJ) – which has the power to investigate terrorism – the PSP – which is responsible for protecting diplomatic premises and “preventively reinforced the protection of the Ukrainian Embassy in Lisbon” – the Republican National Guard (GNR), the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), the Maritime Police and the Strategic and Defence Intelligence Service (SIED).
The SSI also stressed that all these entities are “working in an articulated and permanent manner” with international partners, especially with the Spanish counterparts of the SIS and the PJ.
On 30 November, a man at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid suffered non-serious injuries due to the explosion of an artefact that was inside an envelope. Since then, the authorities in Spain have revealed the existence of five other letters with explosives, the latest in the US embassy in Madrid.
According to Spain’s secretary of state for security, Rafael Pérez, the other envelopes containing explosives intercepted in the last week were sent to the prime minister, the defence minister, a satellite centre and an arms company.