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Decommunisation dispute: Poland could face sanctions over Soviet memorials

Decommunisation dispute: Poland could face sanctions over Soviet memorials
Monument to Soviet soldiers in Skaryszewski Park, Warsaw (Image: Kinga under a CC licence)

1 August 2017

Russia’s government has warned Poland that it will face sanctions if it tears down memorials to Soviet soldiers who fought to liberate Poland in the Second World War, reports BBC News.

Warnings of “asymmetric measures” by Russian foreign ministry officials come in the wake of changes to Poland’s decommunisation policy, which now includes the complete prohibition of totalitarian symbols, among them Soviet monuments. Anonymous sources told Russian newspaper Izvestia that these measures could include personal sanctions against the Polish politicians involved in drafting the law (such as refusing visas) and economic sanctions.

Russian authorities have protested the removal of Soviet monuments in recent years, claiming that it reveals a lack of gratitude for the sacrifice of Soviet troops for Polish liberation from German occupation. Russia argues that Poland must protect all war memorials under a 1994 bilateral agreement with Russia.

The dispute surrounding the monuments is far from an isolated incident, with the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi German forces on Polish soil in 1944 — 1945 still a point of contention between Russia and Poland.

Last week Russia’s foreign ministry voiced indignation at Poland’s decision to cut Russia out of an international project to establish a museum at Sobibor, where an infamous Nazi death camp once stood. A statement published by the ministry accused Poland of “Russophobia” and of “striving to belittle the USSR’s role as liberator”.

Poland’s decommunisation law forms part of a broader debate surrounding the presentation of Polish history. In January this year, Poland’s government won a controversial court ruling allowing it to take control of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, sparking concern that the governing conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) will adapt the museum to suit its own aims.

Source: BBC News