13:45 Apr. 6, 2016
Russia's FM Lavrov says Poland is "leading the race" to demolish monuments to those who died fighting Nazism
Poland's Foreign Ministry says Russian claims about the dismantling of Soviet monuments in the country are "distortion" of truth, Radio Poland reports.
Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Poland is "leading the race" in Europe "in an attack on monuments [commemorating] Soviet citizens who died in the fight against Nazism."
Lavrov stated over the past twelve months, Poland "has profaned or illegally dismantled 30 monuments that symbolize not only the liberating mission of the Red Army, but also Soviet-Polish brotherhood."
Responding to Lavrov's statement, Poland's Foreign Ministry argued that local authorities have every right to dismantle the types of monuments which are "solely manifestations of communist domination on the Polish territory in 1945-1989."
The ministry noted that a February 1994 Polish-Russian agreement regarding burial and memorial grounds concerns exclusively war cemeteries, and that such sites have not been altered.
"In Poland there are 1,875 cemeteries and cemetery sections where Russian and Soviet soldiers are buried. All of them are under the protection and care of state authorities and are being maintained and repaired by the Polish state," the statement said.
However, the ministry stressed, the agreement does not apply to the symbolic monuments, which are under the administration of local authorities.
Thus, the ministry argued, Lavrov's comments send a "dishonest message concerning this issue based on a distortion of the legal realities."
Soviet memorials on Polish soil remain controversial as the liberation of Nazi-occupied Poland by the Red Army at the end of World War II led to the imposition of a Moscow-backed communist regime in Warsaw that lasted until 1989.