“A bad decision” is how Poland’s Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has dubbed the appointment of Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk as Ukraine’s new deputy foreign minister. In the past, Melnyk tried to whitewash Stepan Bandera, a WWII-era political leader whose ideology resounding with racist undertones had pushed Ukrainian countrymen and guerilla to murder tens of thousands of Poles in 1943-1944 in Volhynia.
Poland expresses doubt over appointment of new Ukrainian deputy FM
Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said the appointment of Andrij Melnyk would be enjoyed by Vladimir Putin, adding that he was surprised by the move.
“In my opinion, it is a bad decision,” deputy PM Błaszczak said on Tuesday of Melnyk’s appointment.
Alluding to Russian dictator Putin, Mr Błaszczak went on to say that “I believe that apart from the interested party himself, one more person will enjoy this decision – the inhabitant of the Kremlin. Because there is no doubt that it can be perceived this way. So I am surprised.”
Speaking on Polish Radio, Mr Błaszczak also said that when he had spoken to Ukraine’s new ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, for the first time, he had commented on the “statements of the former Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin.”
“This is really a bad signal,” the defence minister said.
The (black-and-)red flags
Announced on Friday, Mr Melnyk’s appointment triggered criticism from Poland’s Presidential Palace on Sunday. Minister Andrzej Dera from President Andrzej Duda’s Office expressed his surprise by what had happened.
“Personally, I am surprised, because as the Polish side, we always oppose the Bandera narrative; it is unacceptable and in no way can we accept politicians who introduce such a narrative into the public space,” he said.
Apart from critical, and to a certain degree accurate, remarks about the German government’s sluggishness that had characterised Berlin’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Melnyk became notorious for his denial of the massacres of Poles in Volhynia carried out during World War Two by Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) – a Ukrainian guerilla force driven by their ideologist’s vision of ethnically pure Ukraine. The Ukrainian politician claimed there was no proof of Ukrainian forces murdering tens of thousands of Poles.
The then Ukrainian ambassador to Ukraine did not shy away from claiming that during WWII Poland had been Ukraine’s “foe on par with Nazi Germans and USSR.”
We want truth, not revenge: Polish President on Volhynia Massacre
The Volhynia Massacre
The Volhynia massacres consisted of anti-Polish genocidal ethnic cleansings conducted by Ukrainian nationalists. The massacres took place within Poland’s borders as of the outbreak of WWII, and not only in Volhynia, but also in other areas with a mixed Polish-Ukrainian population.
The timeframe of these massacres was 1943-1945. The perpetrators were the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists−Bandera faction (OUN-B) and its military wing, called the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
These Ukrainian forces had been hostile to the Soviets and were sympathetic to the Germans, whom they saw as potential allies against the Soviets. From 1942 onwards, they began to attack the Polish population.
Documents from the period show that the planned extermination of the Polish population was called an “anti-Polish operation.”
For his major role in inspiring the cleansing, Bandera has been a flagrantly divisive historical figure. In Ukraine’s curriculum, he is portrayed and memorised as a freedom fighter. By many, however, including some Ukrainians whose ancestors, in certain cases, were also killed by the murderous mob, Bandera is considered a criminal.
Poland is not a country that interferes in internal affairs and the appointment of politicians to offices in another country, Minister Andrzej Dera from President’s Office said on Sunday.
For his part, Polish MFA spokesperson Łukasz Jasina stressed that while “it was not Poland’s business to tailor Ukraine’s cadre policy”, “among friends, matters are discussed straightforwardly.”
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