Ukraine, Poland should seek compromise, avoid politicization of historical issues - diplomat
There is no actual crisis in relations between Poland and Ukraine, while there is a single issue that is being politicized by both sides, according to Vasyl Bondar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
"In my opinion, strategic partnership with Poland and maintaining our historical remembrance are the two equivalent national interests, so here we have to retain balance of those two tracks. First of all have good, practical relations with Poland. We are developing trade, we have a common military battalion, we have more than a million Ukrainian citizens living in Poland. There are plenty of joint projects that are being implemented but of which there are few reports, for some reason. Therefore, we can't claim there is a crisis or problems in our relations," Bondar told RFE/RL.
There is one issue that has become political, being politicized by both sides, unfortunately, the diplomat believes.
This is an issue of "remembrance," which is being overly politicized and exploited by third parties to the detriment of relations between the two countries.
He clarified that "the public responds to certain statements" while matters of honoring the sites of remembrance have always been problematic, but the sides had managed to resolve them.
"The respective agreement was signed in 1994. The agreement was used to resolve all issues until parity was violated. This was when Poland started destroying "illegal" monuments. Then it was decided that the only way of political containment of destruction of Ukrainian monuments on the territory of Poland was to issue a statement on a possibility of banning exhumation in the territory of Ukraine. "
Read alsoPoland's Lech Kaczynski was "last great" regional leader: Ukraine's Yushchenko"It was an element of deterrence of the process that had already begun, and we really managed to contain it. That political statement did play its role, and now we have to look for a way out of the situation in the direction of a compromise," Bondar said, adding that he has a vision of such a compromise but wouldn't elaborate on it ahead of time.
"Even some Polish politicians who are radical and, say, rather critical toward Ukraine, constantly recalling UPA's 'crimes,' as they say, and 'genocide' during WW2, even these politicians recognize that Russian trace behind all provocations, in particular the shelling of the Polish Consulate in Lutsk, an attempt to block a motorway in Lviv region and the Rava-Ruska border crossing, and acts of vandalism against Polish monuments in Ukraine. There is a Russian trace here, indeed, and this is no conspiracy theory," said Bondar.
The diplomat explains that Poland's national interest is to defend their historic remembrance as they see it. To a certain extent, thanks to this Polish perception on history, Ukrainian society began to look at its own history with its own eyes, not from someone else's perspective.
Read alsoUkraine, Poland need unity in face of Russian aggression – Polish envoy"The Volyn issue is a really controversial one. But the issue is whether this is the question of the killing of Poles by Ukrainians, or a mutual conflict. If we now look at how it was happening in each of the villages, I think we will find a lot of evidence that this was a mutual war, not the extermination by a single party. Of course, there were crimes. And the crimes on both sides must be condemned. We shouldn't be afraid if it was UPA who committed them, but one shouldn't be silent if the units of Poland's Armia Krajowa were involved or some other military..." Bondar believes.
He adds that it would be an exaggeration to claim that the Poles do not recognize Armia Krajowa's crimes. "They do! For example, we know about the opening by presidents – late Kaczynski and Yushchenko – of a monument in Pawlokoma. There is a monument in Sagryn that has not been formally opened yet, where I was a month ago - we honored the memory of Ukrainians who died there. Again, these facts are being recognized in Poland. And even that part of the Armia Krajowa who committed crimes (and there is direct evidence of that) – they are equally being condemned.
Read alsoHead of Poland's National Remembrance Institute says cooperation with Ukraine could be renewed"We shouldn't say one-sidedly that there is a glorification of murderers. Just as we can't say that honoring UPA fighters buried in Poland is commemorating murderers of civilians. This is not really the case. Most of these fighters perished from the hands of the Soviet NKVD, not even from the Polish security service. We see that after a certain surge, the anti-Ukrainian issue has come to a halt and now it is not put to the forefront," the diplomat said.
"Kyiv's position is absolutely clear and understandable. We say: we do not have to be told who our heroes are. And we have clearly been heard. In turn, we don't tell Poland, whom they have to honor," said Bondar. "On the other hand, we see that historical truth requires from us some self-disclosure, not just one-sided talk. Let's take into account the interests of another side and defend our own. And this will be in this case a field for compromise."