Putin is wrong to denigrate Poland's contribution to WWII - British daily

British daily The Times wrote on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is wrong to denigrate Poland's contribution to the defeat of Hitler", as he did at observances in Israel marking the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz German death camp's liberation.

According to the daily, Thursday's gathering of world leaders at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem was the largest diplomatic event to take place in Israel in its 72-year history. Nevertheless, it was the non-attendance of Polish President Andrzej Duda that dominated news coverage of the day.

The Times explained that Duda had refused to attend when he learnt that Putin would be speaking and he would not. It also recalls the two presidents' exchange concerning the actions of their respective countries during the Second World War. Putin has claimed that Poland colluded with the Nazis, while Duda accuses Putin of seeking to rehabilitate Stalinism for political gain. He refused to sit mutely by while Putin rewrote history, the daily said.

"The organisers of the memorial, led by Moshe Kantor, a Russian billionaire close to Mr Putin, restricted speaking rights to the allies who defeated Nazi Germany. Poland’s exclusion from that group is graceless, given the valorous contribution of exiled Poles to the war effort. Taking into account Mr Kantor’s links to the Kremlin, and Binyamin Netanyahu’s wish for friendlier relations with Russia, the influence of Moscow in delivering the snub is not difficult to detect," The Times wrote.

The first allies in the fight against the Third Reich were the states that declared war with Nazi Germany at the beginning of September 1939. They were Poland, France and Great Britain. Later other countries joined the Alliance.

The Times also added that the Russian leader’s remarks were not free of controversy. "He claimed that 40 percent of Jewish victims of the Holocaust were Soviet citizens. The figure accepted by historians is one million, about 17 per cent. Mr Putin has inflated it by including citizens of eastern Poland then occupied by the Soviet Union.

"While nobody disputes the sacrifice of the Soviet Union after it was invaded in 1941, nor the heroism of the Red Army leading to the liberation of most of the death camps, nor should the Russians dispute the sacrifice of the Polish people, a sacrifice which began earlier," The Times wrote.

"Three million Polish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. More than two million non-Jewish Polish civilians and soldiers died. Although many Poles collaborated with the Nazis, many resisted," the daily added.

Apart from that, the British daily said that, "while some Poles engaged in murderous pogroms against Jewish neighbours, some risked their lives to shelter those neighbours. At Yad Vashem, 6,992 Christian Poles are honored as Righteous Among the Nations, against 209 Russians."

"Just as the Polish government was wrong two years ago to make it illegal to accuse Poles of complicity in the Holocaust, so Mr Putin is wrong to accuse them now of complicity in starting the war. The history of the period, while complex, is not confused, nor should it be controversial. To pretend that it is shames the memory of the dead," the daily wrote.