Poland regrets new appointment of Ukrainian deputy FM, says Duda aide
Poland is critical about the appointment of Ukraine's former ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, to the post of deputy foreign minister, Polish presidential minister has said.
The diplomat's appointment was announced on Friday by Taras Melnychuk, the Ukrainian government's representative to parliament.
Melnyk has been known for his very critical remarks about the German government after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and for his statements justifying the massacres of Polish population carried out by Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
He was dismissed as an ambassador by President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.
Bandera, a Ukrainian wartime nationalist leader, remains a deeply divisive historical figure. To some he is a hero who fought for a free Ukraine, while to others he is a criminal, responsible for the murder of countless thousands of Poles and Jews.
Commenting on Melnyk's appointment as a deputy foreign minister, Minister Andrzej Dera from President Andrzej Duda's Office, said on Sunday that he was surprised 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.
He added that Poland, however, is not a country that interferes in internal affairs and the appointment of politicians to functions in another country.
Poland's deputy interior minister, Błażej Poboży, assessed Melnyk's appointment as "not a fortunate choice."
At the same time he pointed out that Melnyk had been named a deputy minister.
"Let us remember that someone else coordinates and conducts this (foreign) policy," Poboży said.
But he added that he regretted that such a choice was made at a time when a lot had been done to build a new opening in Polish-Ukrainian relations after February 24.
"That's why this choice is particularly painful," Poboży said.
Deputy Speaker of the Sejm, lower house, Piotr Zgorzelski from the Polish People's Party said that Melnyk's appointment was "a blow to the heart of Polish families in Volhynia".
He noted that next year Poland will mark the 80th anniversary of the Volhynia massacre in which Ukrainian nationalists slaughtered around 100,000 Poles in the Volhynia and East Galicia regions between 1943-45.
"On the eve of the 80th anniversary, a man who equates Bandera's crimes with alleged Polish crimes is appointed to the post of deputy foreign minister. This is unacceptable from the point of view of the Polish raison d'état and should never happen," Zgorzelski said.
Deputy Speaker of the Sejm, Włodzimierz Czarzasty from the New Left party, said that the war does not justify anything, and appointing Melnyk to this position is a mistake.
"There are difficult matters that need to be explained and they require patience. A mistake. This should not have happened, I will not say that it bodes badly, but such things should not happen," Czarzasty said.
An MP from the main opposition grouping Civic Coalition, Marta Golbik, said that the appointment of Melnyk was not good news, but it was important that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry dissociated itself from Melnyk's earlier comments.
"Today, we must look for solutions that eliminate tensions, and even though the minister's words were extremely disastrous, it is important that the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs cuts itself off from them," she said.
In an interview published on YouTube in June, Melnyk, the then ambassador to Germany, said that "Bandera was one of those who fought for the freedom and independence of Ukraine" and that "He operated in difficult circumstances, between two totalitarian systems: the Soviet one and Nazi Germany... He cannot be put in line with people like Hitler. He wanted to use the Nazi Germans to achieve his own goal: independence of Ukraine."
He went on to argue that Bandera was a Ukrainian hero.
"He was called a fascist by others, but he never called himself that way," Melnyk then said and added that there is no evidence that Bandera's troops murdered hundreds of thousands of Poles in 1943-1944.
On the same day, Ukraine's foreign ministry released a statement saying that Ukrainian-Polish relations were at a high-point and thanked Poland for its unprecedented support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.
The statement also said: "Nothing divides us because both in Kyiv and in Warsaw there is full awareness of the need to maintain unity in the face of urgent threats. The comments made by the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, in an interview with a German journalist, represent his personal views and do not reflect the stance of Ukraine’s foreign ministry."