Russia blasts Poland for WWII history gaffe

22nd January 2015, Comments 0 comments

Russia has accused Poland of abusing history for political ends after Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said it was Ukrainian soldiers who liberated Auschwitz 70 years ago.

Speaking to Polish radio on Wednesday, ahead of events commemorating the liberation, Schetyna said Ukrainian soldiers "opened the gates" of the infamous Nazi concentration camp in January 1945.

"It was the Ukrainian front, the First Ukrainian Front and the Ukrainians who liberated (Auschwitz), they were Ukrainian soldiers who came on this day in January, it was them who opened the gates of the camp, it was them who liberated the camp," he said.

Russian media fumed over the remark Thursday and the head of the Russian senate's foreign affairs committee accused the minister of catering to political needs of the day, with Russia's relations with the West at their lowest point since the Cold War over the Ukraine conflict.

"If someone does not see a difference between the First Ukrainian Front and the nationality of the soldiers who fought fascism on this front, he either never went to school or is ready to forget everything he was taught for political needs," said senator Konstantin Kosachyov.

The First Ukrainian Front was the former Voronezh front of Soviet troops, named thus in 1943 when the frontline advanced from Voronezh region in Russia westward to Ukraine. Auschwitz was liberated by the 322nd division of its 60th Army.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a baffled statement late Wednesday: "It is widely known that Auschwitz was liberated by Red Army troops, which was comprised of all nationalities who heroically fought."

"We believe it is time to stop abusing history and taking the anti-Russian hysteria to the level of disrespect of the memory of those who did not spare their own lives for the liberation of Europe," it said.

© 2015 AFP

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