Russia expresses 'bewilderment' at Polish plaque row
Russia expressed "bewilderment" Sunday at Polish protests of its switch of a plaque marking the death in a plane crash of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others one year ago.
The original version of the commemorative sign, written in Polish, noted that Kaczynski had been travelling to Katyn to mark the 70th anniversary of the murder of 22,000 Polish officers by Soviet secret police.
The late leader's plane missed the runway in heavy fog in the western Russian city of Smolensk and exploded on impact on April 10, 2010.
The new plaque, written in both Polish and Russian, makes no reference to Katyn.
An official at the Russian foreign ministry said that Poland had been warned about the need to switch the sign.
"The Russian side had in advance informed Poland about the need to change the plaque, replacing it with a new one written in both Russian and Polish," the unnamed ministry official told Russian news agencies.
"The Russian foreign ministry expects Polish officials to know that Russian is the state language of the Russian Federation," the official said.
"In this connection, the comments of the official representative of the Polish foreign ministry cause bewilderment," the Moscow official said.
Various Russian officials had previously said the sign was put up by Poland without formal approval.
The foreign ministry official appeared to confirm this, noting that Poland "had been fully informed about the inadmissability to such action without official approval."
A spokesman for the Polish foreign ministry in Warsaw on Saturday called the switch "a very bad decision which has spoiled not only the current commemorations but also bilateral relations."
© 2011 AFP