Russian ambassador summoned over Putin's WWII remarks

2019-12-29 16:30 update: 2019-12-29, 18:40
Polish  Foreign Ministry. Photo PAP/Tomasz Gzell
Polish Foreign Ministry. Photo PAP/Tomasz Gzell
Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev was urgently summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry on Friday in connection with Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent comments about the outbreak of World War Two, the ministry informed PAP on Saturday.

Recounting the meeting with Andreev, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said the Polish side had lodged a firm protest against Putin's words, describing them as "historical insinuations." Przydacz added that Putin's statements regarding the causes of the outbreak of the war and Poland's role in it were rooted in Stalinist propaganda.

"Recent statements by the highest representatives of the Russian state authorities represent a conscious and aggressive attempt to introduce the Stalinist historical narrative into Russian historical awareness," Przydacz said. He also observed that Putin's words not only stood in striking opposition to the Russian Federation's international obligations, but also mocked the fate of millions of victims of Stalinism.

In a statement on the matter, the Foreign Ministry stressed that Putin's statements were an attempt to whitewash the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, and the later brutal occupation of its eastern territories. The statement also pointed out that the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1941.

Later on Saturday, Przydacz told reporters that Poland could not accept Russia's false historical narrative. "In connection with this, we will always respond when Poland's name is defamed," he added.

The official underlined that the Polish side received with 'disgust' President Putin's words and explained that the Russian ambassador had been summoned to the ministry so that he could be presented with an official opposition against such statements which "defame Poland's history, insinuate events that had not taken place and besmirch the good name of Poland and the Polish people, especially those fallen on WWII fronts."

The deputy foreign minister also said that, in his opinion, such statements could have been caused by both internal and external factors, including Russia's recent failures on the international arena. He added he had in mind sanctions imposed on Nord Stream 2, a failed attempt to unite Russia and Belarus or the success achieved by the Ukrainian president within the Normandy Format.

Asked about the next steps, Przydacz said that the Polish side was now waiting for Russia's response.

The Polish president's spokesperson, Blazej Spychalski, told Polsat News on Sunday that "the response prepared to the statements made by the Russian head of state, the response of the Polish Foreign Ministry, was absolutely satisfactory for the president.

Krzysztof Szczerski, the Polish president's chief aide, told PAP on Sunday that "one could soon expect a statement from the Polish PM regarding President Putin's words," and added that "it has been agreed upon with President Andrzej Duda."

Szczerski added that the president "has been in contact with PM Mateusz Morawiecki and the Foreign Ministry as far as Poland's response is concerned." He also said that "since participants in the debate, held at the president's (office - PAP) on Friday, decided not to raise the dispute to a higher political level, the statement by the prime minister is the first to be expected."

He underlined that the PM's expected statement "has been consulted with the president and his advisers from the National Development Council. "We will see what Russia's reaction to this statement will look like. At present, we will not raise this Russian lie to the highest political level," he said.

Szczerski also said that possible next steps "will depend on the Russian side's reaction to the Polish PM's words," and added that they might include President Andrzej Duda's reaction. However, he expressed hope that "there will be no necessity to raise the entire matter to the level of the Polish head of state."

Szczerski underlined that President Putin's words were not only directed at Poland, since "similar false accusations were also directed against Great Britain and France as signatories to the Munich Agreement."

Commenting on his talks in the Polish Foreign Ministry to the Russian TASS news agency, Andreev described them as "difficult, but civil," and said both sides were able to present their positions in the matter. Referring to Przydacz's information that Poland lodged a protest against Putin's statements during the talks, Andreev said he knew of no such protest, and assured that if one had been lodged, he would have "forwarded an appropriate reply to such unfounded and insulting remarks against my country and my president."

Last Friday at a sitting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Putin said the immediate cause of the war was not the August 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, but the 1938 Munich Pact, which secured the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory of Czechoslovakia and which Poland attempted to use to secure its claims to the Zaolzie region, over which it was in dispute with Czechoslovakia.

Referring to the Soviets' September 22, 1939, takeover of Brest in then eastern Poland (today's Belarus) from the Germans, who had captured the city several days earlier, Putin stressed that did not mean the Soviets had taken it from Poland, as they were not fighting against Poland at the time and Poland had lost control of the area. He also observed that the Red Army's entry into the region probably helped save many local lives, especially those of Jews, who would have been exterminated by the Germans.

"At that time the Polish government had lost control of those territories, so there was nobody to negotiate with. The Soviet Union did not actually take anything away from Poland," Putin said.

He also accused Poland's pre-war government of hedging ties to Nazi Germany, by which they "exposed their people, the Polish people, to the German war machine and contributed to the outbreak of World War Two." (PAP)