Ukrainian Dep Prime Minister: More connects us than divides us

"I positively assess today's meeting, the very fact these talks (took place - PAP)," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said on Friday following a meeting with Polish Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture Piotr Glinski.

"There are more things that connect Poles and Ukrainians than divide us," Rozenko added.

The two deputy PMs met for talks in Warsaw on Friday, after which they laid wreaths at a monument to Ukrainian soldiers.

Rozenko said he was "optimistically disposed towards our future talks with Deputy Prime Minister Glinski, talks at various levels and our common work in this area." The talks concerned monuments and memorials to fallen soldiers in the two countries, and aspects of their common history. Rozenko recalled that the meeting was brought about by a decision between Polish President Andrzej Duda and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko in Kharkiv last year. He added that the talks would continue at the deputy prime ministerial level.
 
Rozenko announced that the talks had touched on Ukrainians' rights in Poland, among other issues, saying, "it was not a political discussion, it was a discussion concerning the rights and freedom of Ukrainian citizens, of which more than one million live and work on the territory of the Republic of Poland."

"As representatives of the Ukrainian government, we will defend the rights of our citizens beyond the borders of our country, among others on the territory of the Republic of Poland," he stated. He went on to emphasise that the Ukrainian authorities had remained level-headed following the passage of a controversial new anti-defamation law in Poland. Among other provisions, the new law criminalises denial of human rights abuses committed by Ukrainian nationalists between 1925 and 1950. He said he hoped common sense would resolve the issue. The new law is currently being examined by the Constitutional Tribunal to establish whether it is constitutional and whether it imposes unreasonable burdens on free speech.

Deputy PM Rozenko also raised the issue of Ukrainian monuments that have been damaged in Poland. "We informed the polish side that we expect the rebuilding of Ukrainian monuments that have been devastated on the territory of the Republic of Poland, among them were also monuments that were erected legally," he emphasised, going on to add that whenever Polish monuments had been damaged in Ukraine, the authorities had taken the matter seriously and restored them to their former state. He pointed out that more than 90 percent of Polish monuments in Ukraine were erected illegally.

Rozenko also stated that the issue of Ukrainians refused entry to Poland had been raised. "The Polish side did not take a position on the issue of specific Ukrainian officials and academic staff being barred from entering Poland," he pointed out.

Among the other issues discussed was the possibility of renewing the activities of the Polish-Ukrainian Forum as an impulse to resolve some of the other issues raised.

Last year saw an intensification of the dispute between Warsaw and Kiev, as Poland seeks to find the graves and remains of its citizens on Ukrainian soil. These include the victims of the Volhynia Massacre, in which thousands of Poles were killed by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II.

Ukraine ordered a ban on Polish searches and exhumations after authorities in Hruszowice (southeastern Poland) dismantled a monument to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), an organisation which played a prominent part in the Volhynia Massacre. Earlier, there had also been instances of Ukrainian memorials in Poland being destroyed.