Russian spies blame Poland for WWII

2nd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The bitter accusations reopened wounds on the very day Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended ceremonies in Poland to mark the outbreak of the war 70 years ago amid continued tensions with Warsaw over the history of the conflict.

Moscow -- A top Russian foreign intelligence officer stepped out of the shadows Tuesday to present documents he claimed showed Poland must bear some responsibility for the start of World War II.

The bitter accusations reopened wounds on the very day Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended ceremonies in Poland to mark the outbreak of the war 70 years ago amid continued tensions with Warsaw over the history of the conflict.

Major General Lev Sotskov of the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR, the foreign intelligence successor to the KGB) made a rare public appearance at a stormy news conference brandishing the documents from the SVR archive.

The newly declassified documents, which the SVR has put in an anthology, showed that the Polish leaders had thwarted the creation of an anti-Nazi coalition by cooperating with the Third Reich and seeking to isolate the USSR, he said.

"Reading these documents, my impression is that Poland at the time could have done much more for there to have been a system of collective security and an anti-Hitler bloc before the start of World War II," he said.

Lambasting parallels drawn between Nazism and Stalinism that have infuriated Russia, Sotskov said this meant Poland had to take some responsibility for the start of the war.

"Of course a portion for the outbreak of World War II lies with Poland, which is why they are trying to distort historical facts," he added.

His comments were particularly provocative on the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland which started World War II and was followed weeks later by a Soviet invasion of eastern Poland that altered its borders for ever.

It is well known that Nazi Germany and the Polish Republic signed a Non-Aggression Pact in 1934. But Sotskov produced material attributed to top Polish figures dating from the late 1930s that he said were incriminating over their attitudes to Nazi Germany.

He quoted a transcript of a 1937 meeting between the Polish ambassador in Washington and a top US State Department official where the envoy said "Poland does not see a military threat from Nazi Germany. The main priority is to isolate the Soviet Union."

"There you have it in black and white," said Sotskov.

He also claimed that Polish intelligence agents had been seeking to stir unrest amongst the non-Russian populations in Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia to trigger the collapse of the USSR.

"Amongst the materials there are documents from the Polish military headquarters which show that a special section was created to work with national minorities on the territory of the USSR," the officer said.

He said the aim was to cause instability that could lead to the collapse of the country and see Russia's borders move eastwards.

The comments angered Polish journalists in the audience, who accused the SVR officer of straining already tense Moscow-Warsaw relations on the anniversary of the war.

They also cast doubt on the authenticity of the papers which the SVR has published in Russian translation without the Polish-language originals.

Sotskov, dressed in a blue suit and unfazed by the storm of camera flashes, said the SVR could boast deep archives as its wartime Soviet predecessor had well-placed sources in the Polish foreign ministry and military.

The anthology, which the SVR has posted on the website of the RIA Novosti news agency is entitled "the Secrets of Polish Policy, 1935-1945".

"My mission is very modest," said Sotskov, who was responsible for compiling the anthology. "My mission is to look and see if we have documents which can enlighten us on this topic."

AFP/Expatica

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