Duda handed the award to Zelensky during a meeting at the presidential palace in Warsaw on Wednesday, with Poland's First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Ukraine's Olena Zelenska also present, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
As the two presidential couples held talks, Duda’s office said in a tweet that the Polish president had decorated Zelensky with Poland’s Order of the White Eagle.
The distinction was awarded for Zelensky's "services to deepening relations between Poland and Ukraine, for efforts to ensure security and for an unwavering commitment to defending human rights,” according to officials.
Duda said: “There is no doubt that you are an exceptional person, Volodymyr Zelensky. It’s hard to suppress tears of emotion, when watching your service to your homeland. You didn't abandon either Ukraine or your compatriots. You are a model leader of a state and a nation.”
The Polish president stressed that the Order of the White Eagle was the country’s “oldest and highest” distinction, awarded “to exceptional people, for their exceptional service to Poland and its surroundings,” the PAP news agency reported.
After the talks between the presidential couples, Duda and Zelensky held a private meeting, followed by talks in a small circle of officials and between the two delegations, reporters were told.
Later the two presidents were expected to hold a joint news conference, while the first ladies were due to meet with Ukrainian medics undergoing training in Poland, the PAP news agency reported.
Marcin Przydacz, the top foreign-policy aide to the Polish president, told reporters that Duda and Zelensky would discuss “the full range of Polish-Ukrainian relations,” notably security policy, the situation in Ukraine and the region.
“The presidents will discuss ways to maintain Western support and the European and trans-Atlantic unity” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Przydacz said.
Other topics up for discussion included economic cooperation and historical issues, he added.
During his visit, Zelensky was also scheduled to hold talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as the Speakers of both houses of Poland's parliament, before making an address to the Polish people in the courtyard of Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle on Wednesday afternoon, the PAP news agency reported.
In the meantime, the Ukrainian president was scheduled to attend a Polish-Ukrainian economic forum, while both presidential couples were set to meet with volunteers helping refugees from Ukraine, according to officials.
Zelensky’s trip to Warsaw on Wednesday marked his first official visit since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of his country in February last year, the PAP news agency reported.
The Polish and Ukrainian presidents previously held two working meetings in the southeastern Polish city of Rzeszów, in December 2022 and February 2023, according to officials.
Meanwhile, Poland’s Duda has made four trips to Ukraine since Russia invaded, the PAP news agency reported.
In April 2022, Duda and his Baltic counterparts visited Bucha and other towns near Kyiv that had been ravaged by the Russian army; in May 2022, the Polish president addressed the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv; in August 2022, he attended the Crimean Platform summit in the Ukrainian capital; and in January 2023 he made a trip to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv for a summit of the Lublin Triangle of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania, according to PAP.
Wednesday is day 406 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Source: PAP, prezydent.pl