January 7, 2020 / 4:07 PM / 18 days ago

Poland's president says he won't attend Holocaust event in Israel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday he had declined an Israeli invitation to attend a Holocaust memorial event this month as organizers would not allow him to speak there, even though others including Russian President Vladimir Putin would.

FILE PHOTO: Poland's President Andrzej Duda addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

“As the president I will not take part in the event that will take place on Jan. 23 in Jerusalem,” Duda said in a televised speech.

Duda also expressed dissatisfaction that the representatives of Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the United States would be able to speak at the event, hosted by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, while Poland would not be able to.

“The inability to speak in regards to this matter is against the interests of the (Polish) Republic,” Duda said.

Polish leaders have been infuriated by comments made by Putin last month suggesting that Poland shares responsibility for World War Two.

Putin said Poland - which in September 1939 was invaded first by Nazi Germany from the west and then by Soviet forces from the east - had helped bring disaster on itself by conniving in the previous year in plans to dismember Czechoslovakia, its southern neighbor.

“There are accusations that are completely counter to historical truth and serve as an attempt to diminish us as a country and to falsify the historical truths of World War Two,” Duda said on Tuesday, responding to Putin’s comments.

The ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz will take place a few days before Poland holds its own event at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in southern Poland on Jan. 27.

Millions of Poles - including the vast majority of its large Jewish population - were killed by the Nazis in World War Two.

Poland was forced to join the Soviet bloc after the war, only regaining its freedom in 1989 as Moscow’s domination of eastern Europe crumbled.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Koper, Editing by Marcin Goclowski and Gareth Jones

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