Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that relations with Poland are sound and that both he and his Polish counterpart agree that history should be left to be analyzed by historians.
Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.
The Ukrainian President, who is attending the NATO summit in Brussels said “relations between Ukraine and Poland are good,” and historical issues should not be used as political arguments. Mr Poroshenko added he held a meeting with President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday, and that they planned to meet again on Thursday.
“Andrzej Duda, like Poland, is a strong partner of mine. We appreciate the fact that Poland is giving us strong and consistent support. Our common stance is we should leave history to historians and academics and would try not to politicize our past. The past should be uniting us as much as the present day and the future.”
No reciprocal comment from Poland
There has not been any comment on these remarks from President Duda or any of his aides.
Michał Dworczyk, the Chief of Staff at the Office of the Polish Prime Minister, interviewed on Polish public radio, has said relations must be based on a true account of history.
Krzysztof Szczerski, the President’s Chief of Staff pointed out it was Kiev which asked for the meeting during the NATO summit.
He felt the planned meeting showed that dialogue between the two countries “is intensive and continuous, and does not need external encouragement.”
When speaking of “external encouragement” he was referring to the remarks made by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Mr Tusk, speaking at a press conference during a EU-Ukraine summit, had expressed concern about controversies over history between the two countries.
Tensions over history remain
The 75th anniversary of the Volhynia massacre showed there are tensions between the two countries over interpretations of history.
The Polish President’s Office strongly denied that the Polish delegation had canceled a joint commemoration or declaration by the two Presidents concerning the massacre. Such reports had been circulating in the Ukrainian press during the weekend of July 7-8.
Asked by Polish In English about the reports the President’s press office pointed out that the invitation by the President of Poland to attend a commemoration mass in northwestern Ukraine on July 8 had been made by Ukrainian Bishop Vitaliy Skomarovskyi. The statement said that the same invitation had been sent to President Poroshenko, adding that the Ukrainian President chose not to attend despite encouragement to do so from Warsaw.
The President’s Press office also denied knowledge of any proposal from the Ukrainian authorities on a joint declaration commemorating the massacre. No talks had been held on the subject between the two sides.
On the same day that Poland’s President was in Volhynia appealing to the Ukrainian authorities to resume work on the excavation of the remains of victims, the Ukrainian President went to Poland to attend a commemoration for the victims of a Polish Underground reprisal.
At that event, Mr Poroshenko said he was hoping Poland would amend the part of its defamation law that referred to Ukraine. The law passed in January of this year penalizes any denial of the crimes committed by Ukrainian forces which collaborated with Nazi Germany.
Since the spring of 2017 Warsaw and Kiev have engaged in a dispute over a ban on the search and excavation of the remains of Polish victims of war on Ukrainian territory. The ban was enforced by the Ukrainian National Remembrance Institute in retaliation to the removal of a monument to Ukrainian nationalist forces in Hruszowice in the south-east of Poland, which local authorities deemed as illegal.
President Poroshenko is keen to play down any signs of tension in relations with Poland. However, he also must play to his own gallery back at home. That is what his visit to commemorate the victims of a Polish reprisal to the Ukrainian genocide in Volhynia was about.
There is contradiction in his approach. He cannot say he wants to leave history to the historians, and simultaneously make a demonstration of which version of that history he favors.