Polish embassy critical of Ukrainian foreign ministry's hero commemoration commentary

The Polish Embassy in Ukraine on Saturday criticised Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kateryna Zelenko for her comments regarding the commemoration of controversial Ukrainian national heroes.

In a Friday response to a joint statement by the Polish and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine criticising the authorities of the cities Lviv and Kiev for honouring Ukrainian nationalist leaders known for anti-Semitic and anti-Polish attitudes, Zelenko said that "each nation and each state appoints and commemorates its heroes independently."

Zelenko added that there were circles intent on sowing conflict between Ukraine and other countries, and warned against attempts to provoke tension in Ukraine's relations with Poland and Israel.

In a Saturday commentary on the matter to PAP, the Polish Embassy wrote that it was hardly believable for such words to have come from a Ukrainian diplomat, and pointed out that Zelenko's commentary had not been published on her ministry's website.

"It is difficult to believe that such words could have come from the lips of a Ukrainian diplomat. What's more, they have as yet not been published on the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's official website," the embassy wrote.

It added that if Zelenko's words were to be taken at face value, it would mean that Ukraine considered as its national heroes "the ideologues of Ukrainian integral nationalism, among whose victims were tens of thousands of Poles and Jews and thousands of members of other nations."

On Thursday the Polish and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki and Joel Lion, criticised the authorities of Lviv and Kiev for honouring anti-Semitic and anti-Polish Ukrainian nationalist leaders. Explaining their objections, Cichocki and Lion mentioned the Lviv authorities' decision to channel public funds for the commemoration of military and political leader Andriy Melnik, the Ukrainian writer Ivan Lypa, and his son Yurij Lypa.

The ambassadors pointed out that Melnik co-founded the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) whose military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), carried out the 1943-45 Volhynia Massacre of around 200,000 Poles in the regions of Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, then a part of eastern Poland. They also noted that Melnik collaborated with the Nazis during World War Two.

Cichocki and Lion also described Ivan Lypa as a "xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Polish writer," and accused his son of creating "a racist theory of the Ukrainian race." They also noted that on January 1 a public administration building in Kiev sported a banner depicting Ukrainian nationalist leader and ideologist Stepan Bandera.