World News

Russian envoy withdraws assertion of Polish blame for Nazi invasion

WARSAW (Reuters) - Russia’s ambassador to Poland on Monday withdrew an assertion that Poland was partially responsible for the 1939 Nazi invasion and the outbreak of World War Two - comments that stirred anger at a tense time in Polish-Russian relations.

Ambassador Sergey Andreyev was summoned by the foreign ministry after telling private broadcaster TVN24 on Friday that Poland was partly to blame because it had repeatedly blocked formation of a coalition against Berlin in the run-up to the invasion.

“I have explained that it was an erroneous interpretation,” Andreyev told reporters: “I did not mean to say that Poland is co-responsible for the outbreak of World War Two.”

Spats over the interpretation of common history have further complicated relations soured by a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, and the Soviet Union moved to occupy parts of eastern Poland two weeks later under a secret agreement between Moscow and Berlin.

For 45 years after the end of the war, Poland remained firmly under Moscow’s control as part of the Warsaw Pact.

This month, the Polish ambassador to Russia has been summoned twice in just over a week, first to explain a removal of a Soviet-era monument in a Polish town, and then over vandalism at a Soviet war cemetery in a different part of Poland.

The diplomatic row between the neighbours came less then a month before Poland’s parliamentary election, which the largest opposition party Law and Justice (PiS, with its more hawkish stance on Moscow, is tipped to win.

Warsaw has been one of the most vocal critics of Russia’s policy on a pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine, accusing it of supplying arms and troops to back the insurrection - something Moscow denies. It is also a strong proponent of upholding economic sanctions against the Kremlin.

Reporting by Marcin Goettig and Wiktor Szary; Writing by Marcin Goclowski; editing by Ralph Boulton