Polish minister downplays ambassador’s comments about Poland

Marcin Przydacz, a deputy foreign minister, commenting on Melnyk's statements told the Wirtualna Polska news website that "this type of approach and words are absolutely unacceptable," however, Przydacz added, Poland is interested only in the position of the Ukrainian government and not particular individuals. Rafał Guz/PAP

A Polish deputy foreign minister has played down comments made by Ukraine's ambassador to Germany that belittled crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists on Poles during World War II.

In an interview published on YouTube Andriy Melnyk, the ambassador, was asked about the massacres of Polish and Jewish people carried out by Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist politician, remains a deeply divisive historical figure. To some he is a hero who fought for a free Ukraine, while to others he is criminal, responsible for the murder of countless thousands of Poles and Jews.

Answering the question Melnyk replied: "Bandera was one of those who fought for the freedom and independence of Ukraine.

"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 of Ukraine.

"He was called a fascist by others, but he never called himself that way," Melnyk said and added that there is no evidence that Bandera's troops murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Marcin Przydacz, a deputy foreign minister, commenting on Melnyk's statements told the Wirtualna Polska news website that "this type of approach and words are absolutely unacceptable," however, Przydacz added, Poland is interested only in the position of the Ukrainian government and not particular individuals.

He also said: "We are fully aware of what Polish-Ukrainian relations looked like and what happened in 1943 and later in Volhynia and in Eastern Galicia."

Earlier in the 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."