Poland critical of Russian leader's WW2 statement

On September 17, 1939, in defiance of the Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Red Army crossed into the territory of the Republic of Poland, carrying out agreements enshrined in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the preceding month. The consequence was the division of Poland between the Soviets and Germans. Public domain

Russian President Vladimir Putin's Saturday statements about the outbreak of World War Two resemble Stalinist-era propaganda, the Polish Foreign Ministry wrote in a Saturday statement.

The ministry's words came in response to Putin's Friday criticism of an EP resolution on the outbreak of the war. In his commentary 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 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 it was in dispute over with Czechoslovakia.

Referring to the Soviet Union's 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

Putin 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."

In its statement, the ministry wrote that it had received Putin's words "with concern and incredulity," and accused the Russian state leader of presenting a false version of history. The ministry added that Putin's statement forfeited efforts by Polish and Russian experts to-date to achieve rapprochement in Polish-Russian relations.

"It was with concern and incredulity that we received the Russian authorities' and President Vladimir Putin's words concerning the origins and course of the Second World War, which present a false picture of these events and are reminiscent of the propaganda practised in the era of Stalinist totalitarianism. The Russian president's words (threaten to - PAP) forfeit the work carried out by Polish and Russian experts (...) to find a path of truth and reconciliation in Polish-Russian relations," the ministry wrote.

The ministry also pointed out that in the inter-war years Poland pursued a policy of equilibrium towards both Germany and the Soviet Union, best evidenced by a 1932 non-aggression pact with the Soviets and a similar agreement with Germany in 1934. Despite this, the ministry wrote, the Soviets continued to repress Poles throughout the inter-war period, one of the most notable examples of which was the 1937 'Polish operation,' in which Soviet security forces executed 11,000 Poles.

The ministry also mentioned the vast numbers of Polish victims of Stalinism during World War II, and highlighted that the Soviets' wartime operations in Poland, most notably their September 17, 1939, invasion of Poland, had been carried out in consultation with Nazi Germany under a partnership sealed by the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The ministry also recalled that on September 28 of that year the Soviet Union and Germany sealed a new agreement dividing Poland between them.

On September 17, 1939, in defiance of the Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Red Army crossed into the territory of the Republic of Poland, carrying out agreements enshrined in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the preceding month. The consequence was the division of Poland between the Soviets and Germans.

As a result, the Soviet Union seized a territory of over 190,000 square kilometres with a population of around 13 million. The number of victims among the Polish citizens who in the 1939-41 period found themselves under Soviet occupation is to this day not fully known.