2020.01.30 10:19

Russia angry over Ukraine president's Nazi collusion remark

Deutsche Welle, LRT.lt2020.01.30 10:19

Russia labeled President Zelensky's claim that the Soviet Union helped start World War 2 "erroneous and offensive." He was referring to a German-Soviet non-aggression pact, signed days before Germany invaded Poland.

Russia lashed out at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday, over a comment he made regarding Russia's role in the outbreak of World War 2.

Zelenskiy made a reference to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 signed by the foreign ministers of Germany and the Soviet Union, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, respectively. The pact, sealed barely a week before Nazi Germany invaded Poland, assured that neither the Soviet Union nor Germany would attack the other unprovoked.

Read more: EP calls to counter Russia's attempts to whitewash Soviet crimes and rewrite history

Germany invaded Poland from the west within a week of the deal, the Soviets marched in from the east around two weeks thereafter.

In a joint briefing with Poland's President Andrzej Duda on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Zelensky said the Poles "were the first to feel the consequences of the criminal collusion of the totalitarian regimes".

"This led to the start of World War 2 and allowed the Nazis to launch the lethal Holocaust machine," the Ukrainian president added.

The Soviet collaboration with the Nazis is a highly sensitive topic and is vehemently rejected by Russia.

Read more: Putin’s parallel world and the return of Stalin – opinion

"We categorically disagree with this statement," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He accused Zelensky of backing the "highly erroneous" position of Poland on the historical events.

"We do not accept this statement. We consider it erroneous and offensive from the point of view of our grandfathers' memory," Peskov added.

Poland and Russia spar over legacy

Russia, Poland and some other eastern European countries accuse each other of trying to airbrush out parts of their wartime history, with the debate intensifying since a recent EU resolution urging Russia to accept some responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict.

On Saturday, the leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party and former prime minister, Jarosław Kaczyński, broached the subject of Russia's stance on the issue – especially Vladimir Putin's recent comments focusing on Poland's ambassador to Germany at the time – during an interview with German newspaper Bild.

"The world knows the truth: it was the Soviet Union who invaded Poland on September 17, 1939," Kaczyński said. "But Poland as victim and Russians as perpetrators – that is not a role that Putin likes. That is why he seeks to rewrite history."

When asked about the controversial topic of German reparations to Poland and whether Russia should also pay its dues, Kaczyński said Russia "would also have to pay."

"I do not believe that our generation will live to see Moscow face up to its responsibilities," he asserted. "One thing is certain: our demands have no expiration date."

The comment prompted a stark response from the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday. "For the liberation of Poland from Nazism, our country paid with the lives of 600,000 fighters of the Red Army," the statement read.

"It is thanks to them that Poland exists as a state," the ministry added, saying that it was the former Soviet satellite state that was trying to rewrite history.

Read more: Poland and Putin in war over World War Two

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has backed Poland over its dispute with Moscow and skipped the Yad Vashem event in Jerusalem in solidarity with Warsaw after only Putin was given the right to speak, and not the Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“Lately, Russia has been putting every effort into trying to rewrite history. One of the examples is denying the impact of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocols on Europe's painful history,” Nausėda said in late December.

Read more: Auschwitz: Lithuanian president calls to 'search for truth' amid disputes with Moscow

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