Kremlin-faked Polish-Ukrainian relations
‘What was Lviv if not a Polish city?” - Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Oct 2014
According to Russian and Kremlin-backed militant media, relations between Ukraine and Poland could not be more volatile. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is alleged to have called for parts of Ukraine, including Lviv, to be ‘returned to Poland’, and Poles are about to inundate Ukraine with crippling compensation claims over property owned in Western Ukraine when it was under Poland. This, the reports allege, is because of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Since there is no truth in any of it, the number of reports is at very least suspicious. So too is the conclusion by a regular blogger on the Russian state-controlled RIA Novosti that the claims are “an indicator of the Ukrainian government’s internal and foreign policy weakness”.
A fictitious presidential speech
Reports appeared last week in the Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian media, claiming that President Duda had asserted that “Ukraine must voluntarily return Polish land” and had called on Polish citizens “to be ready to fight for the return of former Polish land where our compatriots continue to face persecution and humiliation from the new Ukrainian leadership”. The first report, on a website linked with the Kremlin-backed militants in Eastern Ukraine appeared on Oct 20 and claimed to be repeating a report by Elżbieta Jaworowicz on the Polish state TV channel TVP1.
The assertions were then repeated on Oct 22 on some Turkish websites. It is difficult to imagine how they would reach a Turkish audience without assistance, yet Elżbieta Jaworowicz had reported nothing of the sort for a very good reason.
On Oct 23, President Duda’s Press Service issued a statement in both Polish and English, saying that “all remarks which appeared on the above-mentioned websites and were attributed to the Polish president, are fabricated and have nothing to do with reality”.
End of the story? For those who glean their information from presidential websites, yes. The majority of Internet viewers find it elsewhere and all too many fail to examine the source of scandalous headlines. They are clearly the target audience.
Fictitious claims against Ukraine
The presidential fake coincided with a more sophisticated form of disinformation. The Russian TASS news agency reported on Oct 19 that an organization called “Powiernictwo Kresowe” has collected information enabling 600 Polish claims for compensation for property left on Ukrainian (and formerly Polish) territory after WWII. Its source was Konrad Rękas, a member of a new pro-Russian party in Poland headed by Mateusz Piskorski, best-known for his unfailing praise as ‘observer’ of the so-called ‘referendum’ on Crimean annexation, last year’s militant ‘elections’ in Donbas and many others. The organization was created in April this year, and Rękas says that the first two claims will shortly be sent to courts in Ukraine – one to Kyiv, the other to Lutsk.
„We hope that the Ukrainian courts will act in accordance with the law which clearly defines obligations in this sphere. If the Ukrainian courts avoid carrying out the law, we will turn to Strasbourg and the USA”, Rękas is reported as saying.
TASS reports only that there are currently 100 thousand people who can prove that their relatives owned property in the Eastern Kresy, the area in question. It does not point out that this area covers territory now within Belarus and Lithuania. Most importantly, both Rękas and TASS ignore the fact that through a presidential decree from April 2, 2014 Poland agrees to pay its own citizens compensation, If Poles are not satisfied with the amounts paid, they must dispute this in a Polish court.
Deliberate attempts to scare Ukrainians with massive compensation claims and say that this is in accordance with the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement are manipulative and misleading.
The calculation is brutally cynical: most people have no way of knowing whether such claims are possible or not, and are unlikely to know how to check whether this could really be a consequence of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, due to come into effect in 2016.
An article on the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti leaves no space for illusion that only shoddy journalism is responsible for misleading reports. As mentioned Zakhar Vinogradov explains the supposedly mounting campaign to have property in Western Ukraine compensated as about Ukraine’s weakness, and goes on to make the following alarming prediction.
“Ukraine disintegrating into pieces could become the object of territorial and private property claims from West European neighbours. And what at the moment sounds like pre-election rhetoric could tomorrow become a real socio-economic and political nightmare.”
There have been numerous fake ‘Ukrainian separatist protest’ reports over the last year with the Russian media trying to present the information as having originated from a Ukrainian source. Here Vinogradov clearly suggests that the news was first reported in “a number of Polish resources” on Oct 19. It was the Russian TASS who reported it then, with Polish and Ukrainian sources taking a day before they uncritically presented it to their readers.
Vinogradov pulls out another ‘Polish territorial aspirations’ story as well – or half of it. For an ‘Independence Run’ from 18-20 Oct on the border between Poland and Ukraine, the Polish organizers had used a map showing Lviv being within Poland. Andriy Sadoviy, Lviv’s Mayor, who was standing for re-election on Oct 25, expressed protest. At this point the stories diverge, with Vinogradov claiming that Sadoviy received no response since Kyiv was in no hurry to annoy Poland, seen as Ukraine’s “international advocate in the EU”.
Sadovy, in fact, reported that the Independence Run’s official site had taken down the flag, the Polish General Consul had assured him that the incident had nothing to do with Poland’s position , and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko had asked Ukraine’s Foreign Minister to speak with his Polish counterpart. Sadovy summed up as follows: “The Poles are our friends, there are idiots everywhere”.
In a recent article, political analyst Alyona Hetmanchuk looked at the pre-election campaign in Poland and suggested that the latter’s unqualified support for Ukraine was probably a thing of the past. She believes that Ukraine has contributed to this, and notes that many Ukrainians still fail to understand the slap in the face Ukraine’s parliament gave former President Bronisław Komorowski in April this year. Within an hour or so of the latter’s address to the Verkhovna Rada, a majority voted in a law recognizing Ukrainian Insurgent Army [UPA] soldiers as fighters for independence. Can the timing of a law guaranteed to antagonize most Poles be seen as provocation, she asks, and if so, whose? An answer must be found if we want to work with Poland since Polish presidents should not have to fear being set up in this way if they visit Ukraine.
Newly-elected Polish senator, Jan Żaryn from the winning Law & Justice [PiS] party, has just given an interview where he states that Ukraine cannot hope to become a European nation “de facto supporting the genocidal organization OUN-UPA and its military structures”.
While many Ukrainians acknowledge that the Volyn Massacre in 1943 was a terrible crime, committed by Ukrainians against Poles, and with at least part of the UPA complicit, even this, unfortunately, remains contentious for others. Treatment of all UPA fighters as genocidal killers is also guaranteed to arouse only antagonism from very many Ukrainians.
It is no accident that Vinogradov should have referred to the Komorowski visit, nor that the Kremlin’s proxies in eastern Ukraine and Kremlin-loyal parties in Europe incessantly dwell on UPA, Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera and the period of the Second World War . It is, in fact, totally logical since any other uses of terminology like ‘fascist’ are curious given the often neo-Nazi and far-right views of most of those defending the Kremlin’s position.
Moscow has for a very long time been using UPA and the Second World War to stir up division between Ukrainians, and between Ukraine and Poland. It is frustrating how many Ukrainians, and possibly Poles, let themselves be so manipulated by extreme views designed to preclude dialogue and, at very least, understanding of the other side’s position.
Vinogradov’s distortion of the story about the Polish map was also no accident. He concludes his text by pointing out that the scandalous map also showed “parts of Ukraine as belonging to Russia (all of the south, right up to Odesa) and to Romania (part of the Odesa oblast, the so-called ‘Bessarabia’).”
“Maybe this is a caricature of the current Ukrainian reality? Where Ukraine loses, its neighbours win”.
Only one neighbour wins, hence all these destructive efforts to stir up discord and distrust.
(Photo: M. Klimentiev, RIA Novosti/PAP/EPA)