Poland protests against removal of Polish flags from Katyn memorial

Wojciech Pacewicz/PAP

Poland has officially protested against the removal by the Russian authorities of Polish flags from the Katyn war cemetery, a presidential official has said.

"There is a protest of the Polish State - this is the position of the Foreign Ministry," Pawel Mucha, an aide to President Andrzej Duda, said on Sunday.

"Such actions are directed against the entire West," Mucha told a Polsat private television programme, adding that the Polish consul had already visited the memorial.

The memorial site and monument commemorate the Katyn Forest Massacre in western Russia, a series of mass executions of close to 22,000 Polish POWs, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet NKVD security agency in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations, but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in western Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

"These are hostile actions which show that Russians are aware of the fact that Ukraine cannot defend itself without the support of the West," Mucha said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said on Saturday that the Polish consul to Smolensk, Russia, had confirmed that the Polish flag had been removed from the Katyn memorial. Przydacz added that the consul had demanded an explanation from the local authorities.

"The presence of the Polish flag and appropriate respect for the site should be a civilisational standard. If Russia does not obey it, this, in fact, shows the true face of its authorities," Przydacz said.

The incident was first reported by an independent Russian portal, which published a photo of an empty mast and quoted Smolensk's mayor as saying that there was no place for Polish flags at Russian cemeteries.

Stanislaw Zaryn, director of the National Security Department, told PAP the move was another act of hostility of the Kremlin and an element of an anti-Polish campaign, which had been going on for years.