Ukrainian president to resume exhumation of Poles in Ukraine: report

With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Warsaw nearing, Poland and Ukraine alike anticipate an improvement in the states’ bilateral relations – something that might just become more possible with the removal of the Ukrainian ban on the exhumation of 100,000 Polish victims of the Ukrainian-perpetrated Volhynia massacre of 1943-1944.

Meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday, President Zelensky is expected to propose a way to resume the exhumation, Polish “Rzeczpospolita” daily reported on Thursday.

The atmosphere seems conducive to bringing about the much-awaited breakthrough. Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Andrii Deshchytsia does not rule out “a new phase in Ukrainian relations with Poland”, not only expressing his hope “for a new opening” but also explicitly telling the daily that “that’s the message that President Zelensky flies to Warsaw with. We believe there is a reason for optimism.”

The daily cited government sources in Kyiv as indicating a breakthrough in the ongoing dispute over historical policy, which has hampered relations between the two countries for at least four years.

“Rzeczpospolita” quotes an unnamed source as saying: "We don't want cooperation in the issue of historical memory to remain blocked, its renewal is important to us."

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian MP and an appointed member of the “Friendship with Poland” committee blamed the current head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UINR) Volodymyr Viatrovych for the deterioration of Polish-Ukrainian relations and said that she “is against having [him] any longer as the UINR head… A great reset is coming in relations with Poland,” she said.

The outset of the dispute between Warsaw and Kyiv over the exhumation of Polish fallen soldiers and civils dates back to spring 2017 when Ukraine banned all exhumations of Volhynia massacre victims carried out by Poland in Ukraine following the removal of a memorial to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in Hruszowice, southeastern Poland.

According to historians, around 100,000 Polish nationals were killed in the 1943-45 Volhynia massacre, including 40,000-60,000 in Volhynia and 20,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia, and at least 4,000 on the territory of today's Poland. According to Poland's National Remembrance Institute (IPN), some 10,000-12,000 Ukrainians were murdered during Polish retaliatory operations by the spring of 1945.

Energy matters

A recognised Ukrainian political scientist told “Rzeczpospolita” that President Zelensky “is interested in what takes place on the Polish-Ukrainian border today and not in what happened in the 1940s.”

In this vein, the presidential visit to Warsaw may bring not only a breakthrough in the historical policy but also in the field of Polish-Ukrainian economic cooperation, particularly with regard to LNG import to Ukraine via Poland. This may be accomplished thanks to a planned LNG terminal in the northern Polish city of Gdańsk. With the terminal, gas could be pumped to Ukraine, increasing the country’s resources diversification.

Political sources in Kyiv told the daily that they are interested in the diversification, building the necessary infrastructure and limiting the dependence on Russia. “Kyiv is seriously interested in importing US gas.

The contract on gas import with Russia expires on January 1, 2020, and there has not been a word of signing another one so far,” Ukrainian MP Iryna Vereshchuk told the daily. “We bet on US gas because it benefits us both politically and economically”