Russian ambassador summoned over Putin's WWII remarks

Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev was urgently summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry on Friday in connection with Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent comments about the outbreak of World War Two, the ministry informed PAP on Saturday.

Recounting the meeting with Andreev, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said the Polish side had lodged a firm protest against Putin's words, describing them as "historical insinuations." Przydacz added that Putin's statements regarding the causes of the outbreak of the war and Poland's role in it were rooted in Stalinist propaganda.

"Recent statements by the highest representatives of the Russian state authorities represent a conscious and aggressive attempt to introduce the Stalinist historical narrative into Russian historical awareness," Przydacz said. He also observed that Putin's words not only stood in striking opposition to the Russian Federation's international obligations, but also mocked the fate of millions of victims of Stalinism.

In a statement on the matter, the Foreign Ministry stressed that Putin's statements were an attempt to whitewash the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, and the later brutal occupation of its eastern territories, and pointed out that the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1941.

Commenting on his talks in the Polish Foreign Ministry to the Russian TASS news agency, Andreev described them as "difficult, but civil," and said both sides were able to present their positions in the matter. Referring to Przydacz's information that Poland lodged a protest against Putin's statements during the talks, Andreev said he knew of no such protest, and assured that if one had been lodged, he would have "forwarded an appropriate reply to such unfounded and insulting remarks against my country and my president."

Last Friday at a sitting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Putin said the immediate cause of the war was not the August 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, but the 1938 Munich Pact, which secured the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory of Czechoslovakia and which Poland attempted to use to secure its claims to the Zaolzie region it was in dispute over with Czechoslovakia.

Referring to the Soviets' September 22, 1939, takeover of Brest in then eastern Poland (today's Belarus) from the Germans, who had captured the city several days earlier, Putin stressed that did not mean the Soviets had taken it from Poland, as they were not fighting against Poland at the time and Poland had lost control of the area. He also observed that the Red Army's entry into the region probably helped save many local lives, especially those of Jews, who would have been exterminated by the Germans.

"At that time the Polish government had lost control of those territories, so there was nobody to negotiate with. The Soviet Union did not actually take anything away from Poland," Putin said.

He also accused Poland's pre-war government of hedging ties to Nazi Germany, by which they "exposed their people, the Polish people, to the German war machine and contributed to the outbreak of World War Two."