Ukrainian President: ‘Poland remains our friend’

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko acknowledged that dialogue with Warsaw is at times "difficult". Photo: EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday that despite artificial attempts to create tensions between Warsaw and Kiev, Poland remains Ukraine's friend. In Mr Poroshenko’s opinion, relations between the two countries should be built on common interests.

“Regardless of the difficult dialogue with Warsaw at times, Poland remains our true friend and it is understandable that the artificial exacerbation of the situation that sows the seed of discord in traditionally friendly relations between our countries has absolutely no prospects,” the Ukrainian president said at a meeting with Ukrainian ambassadors.

Mr Poroshenko added that a constructive dialogue between Kiev and Warsaw should focus on common challenges and “on what unites us, not divides us.”

Poland and Ukraine have been divided in their interpretations of their shared history, mainly the roles of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which in 1943-1945 carried out ethnic cleansing of about 100,000 Polish men, women, and children.

For Poland, the acts amounted to genocide, while for Ukraine they were a result of a symmetrical armed conflict, with responsibility placed on both sides. Additionally, the Ukrainians want to see OUN and UPA as solely anti-Soviet organizations, not anti-Polish.

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The dispute between Warsaw and Kiev regarding historical issues intensified in the spring of last year when the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance forbade the search for and exhumation of the remains of Polish victims of wars and conflicts on the territory of Ukraine.

The ban was issued after the dismantling of a monument in Hruszowice, south-eastern Poland, commemorating the UPA and earlier cases of destruction of Ukrainian commemoration sites in Poland.

Bilateral relations also worsened after an amendment to Poland's law on the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which among other provisions, criminalized denial of human rights abuses committed by Ukrainian nationalists between 1925 and 1950.