Polish leader urges reconciliation over WWII massacre



Lutsk: Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Sunday urged reconciliation at a ceremony in Ukraine marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of tens of thousands of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists in World War II.

His conciliatory comments in the northwestern town of Lutsk were however overshadowed by a security breach after the ceremony when a young Ukrainian man walked up to him and slapped a raw egg on his shoulder. The president was not hurt in the incident.

While little known outside eastern Europe, the bloodshed in the Nazi-occupied Volhynia and Galicia regions in the west of modern Ukraine in July 1943 has strained ties between Ukraine and Poland.

Neither government wants history to cast a pall over their current relations, with Warsaw encouraging Ukraine to move away from Russian influence and realise its ambition of joining the European Union.

Komorowski, joined by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, said the past should not endanger the countries' friendship.

"An honest interpretation of the past should serve reconciliation and cooperation between our peoples and our two independent states," said Komorowski.

"I hope that this wound between our brotherly nations heals quicker," he said. Komorowski hinted that Moscow was the only winner when Poland and Ukraine feuded.

"We should not forget that only a third party -- that has always threatened our independence and freedom -- has won when the Ukrainian and Polish peoples have been in conflict."

For his part, Gryshchenko said both governments had a responsibility to overcome the past and build a shared European future.

"We have no reason to argue, nothing should separate our states. We have one aim, a common European future," he said.

The attacker, hiding an egg in his hand, walked up to Komorowski after the ceremony, bypassing security.

The man broke the egg on Komorowski's shoulder but the president appeared unfazed and swapped his soiled jacket for another.

The man -- a Ukrainian who has not been named -- has been detained by police. It was not clear what his motives were.

The Polish parliament in a resolution on Friday stopped short of calling the 1943 massacre a genocide -- a move that could have caused a diplomatic row -- and opted instead for the more cautious wording of "ethnic cleansing characterised by signs of genocide".

AFP