Polish, Israeli ambassadors condemn honours for Ukrainian nationalists

The Polish and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki and Joel Lion, on Thursday criticised the authorities of Lviv and Kiev in Ukraine for honouring Ukrainian nationalist leaders known for anti-Semitic and anti-Polish attitudes.

"It caused us great concern and sorrow to learn that (...) the Lviv District Council and the State Administration of the City of Lviv continue to celebrate historical personages and events which should be condemned once and for all," the ambassadors wrote in a joint statement sent to PAP and published on Facebook.

Explaining their objections, Cichocki and Lion mentioned the Lviv authorities' December 24 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, mainly women and children, 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.

"We, the ambassadors of Poland and Israel, believe that paying honour to persons who actively supported ethnic purges is an insult and counterproductive with regard to the struggle with anti-Semitism and the reconcilement process between our peoples," the ambassadors wrote.

In his response to the statement, Ukrainian PM Mykola Kniazhytskyi, who co-heads an interparliamentary group for relations with Poland, opined that the ambassadors' words should be "treated with restraint."

Commenting on Cichocki's and Lion's accusations that the honoured nationalist activists were anti-Semitic, he observed that if anyone was propagating anti-Semitism, it was Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who recently accused the entire Polish nation of anti-Semitism.