Removal of Polish flag at Katyn unacceptable, says deputy FM

2022-06-27 11:00 update: 2022-07-02, 10:22
Photo PAP/ Albert Zawada
Photo PAP/ Albert Zawada
Attempts to remove a Polish flag from the Katyn Massacre memorial site in Russia are "absolutely unacceptable" and show "how far away Russia is today from civilisational standards," a Polish deputy foreign minister has said.  

Speaking on public broadcaster TVP Info on Sunday, Marcin Przydacz was responding to reports that Russian authorities had removed Polish flags from the Katyn military cemetery.

The memorial site and monument commemorate the Katyn Forest Massacre in western Russia, a series of mass executions of close to 22,000 Polish POWs, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet NKVD security agency in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations, but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

The removal of Polish flags from the Katyn memorial site was reported by independent Russian news website Meduza, quoting Smolensk Mayor Andrey Borisov.

"There can be no flags of Poland at Russian memorials. Especially after openly anti-Russian statements by Polish politicians," Borisov said. 

"The Polish consul has launched an immediate intervention within Russian government structures at the site," Przydacz told TVP Info. "There were very unpleasant scenes as the Polish consul naturally referred to previous arrangements but also to civilisational standards.

"After all, no one of sound mind would deny that Polish officers had been killed there and that the Polish flag should fly. That flag was removed in order to cause anxiety, but also in the spirit of some emotional attempt at revenge," he continued. 

Przydacz went on to say that the Foreign Ministry would intervene, although it did "not expect a spectacular policy change."

"Russia is conducting an aggressive policy," he said. "It also sees our firm position. Where it cannot accost us in any other way, it will strive to cause such minor crises.

"The attempt to remove flags from a Polish cemetery is absolutely unacceptable, but also shows how far from civilisational standards Russia has come today," Przydacz said.

Przydacz said the ministry would send a diplomatic note to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the matter. 

"It will be submitted today, a note is just being written at the moment which will be submitted to the (Russian) Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Przydacz told public radio, adding that he did not wish to disclose the note's contents until it had been accepted by Moscow. 

"It's very possible and very probable there will be no reaction, that the Russians will respond to that note by trying to escalate these types of issues," he said. (PAP)