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Ukrainian MPs remove disputed tribute after Polish protests: deputy FM

03.01.2023 15:30
A Polish deputy foreign minister has said that following condemnation from Poland, Ukraine’s parliament has removed a social media tribute to a controversial World War II leader who officials say is responsible for the mass slaughter of Poles and Jews decades ago. 
Arkadiusz Mularczyk.
Arkadiusz Mularczyk.PAP/Albert Zawada

Arkadiusz Mularczyk made the announcement in an interview with public broadcaster Polish Radio on Tuesday.

‘Ukrainians have listened to our concerns’ 

He told Polish Radio: “The Polish government protested on Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he would hold talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal, and the online post by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada parliament has been removed.”  

Mularczyk added: “It’s an indication that the Ukrainians have listened to our concerns.”

He stressed: “I would like to make it clear that the Polish state in no way accepts the honouring of Stepan Bandera, the ideologue of the Ukrainian nationalists who were responsible for murdering tens of thousands of Poles in Volhynia.”

Mularczyk said he believed “the Ukrainian people must realise that what the Polish government and the Polish people are currently doing is of much more value to an independent, sovereign Ukraine.”

He added: “I believe this message has been received because the post has simply disappeared.”  

Mularczyk cautioned that “a lot of Ukrainians are unaware of what happened in Volhynia” and so “some work still needs to be done” to raise awareness, Polish state news agency PAP reported.   

“I am convinced that time will come when this issue will be settled in relations between our two countries,” he said. 

He told Polish Radio: “Today, through our actions, we’ve demonstrated  that we are supporting Ukraine. Ukraine must respect this and these historical issues should obviously be somehow regulated in Polish-Ukrainian relations.” 

Meanwhile, Jakub Kumoch, a top foreign-policy aide to Polish President Andrzej Duda, said in an interview on Tuesday: “Realistically speaking, it is difficult to imagine that Ukraine will be able to abandon its viewpoint regarding the struggle for an independent state.”

Speaking to private radio broadcaster RMF24, Kumoch added: “It’s hard to expect that the wartime Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), as an entity that is mainly associated with the struggle against the Russians and the Germans, will be somehow erased from Ukrainian history.”

Controversy over tribute

To mark the birthday of Bandera, who led the OUN, Ukraine’s unicameral Verkhovna Rada parliament on Sunday tweeted a photo of the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, next to a portrait of Bandera, alongside several of Bandera's quotes.

Reacting to the post, Poland’s foreign ministry spokesman Łukasz Jasina said: “Our attitude to the crimes committed by the OUN remains unchanged. We hope that the rapprochement of the Polish and Ukrainian nations will lead to a better understanding of our common history."

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday: "There cannot be any nuancing here, especially when the Verkhovna Rada recalls that figure who was an ideologist during those criminal times, the times of World War II."

Morawiecki added: "Please remember that those appalling Ukrainian crimes happened under German occupation, but one must not allow the slightest tolerance for those who do not want to admit that terrible genocide was something unimaginable."

Bandera remains a deeply divisive historical figure in Polish-Ukrainian relations. To most Ukrainians he is a hero who fought for their free country, while to Poles he is a criminal responsible for the murder of countless thousands of their compatriots and Jews.

The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists was responsible for the so-called Volhynia Massacre, in which Ukrainian nationalists slaughtered around 100,000 Poles in Volhynia and neighbouring regions between 1943 and 1945, according to officials.  

Tuesday is day 314 of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 


Source: IAR, PAP, rmf24.pl

Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Agnieszka Bielawska.