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POLAND has demanded that Ukraine acknowledges the mass killing of Poles by nationalists during the second world war as “ethnic cleansing” after refusing an invitation for a joint commemoration.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said the Ukrainian government must recognise the Volhynia massacres, during which thousands of Polish citizens were killed by Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), in order for the countries to “move forward.”
He visited Ukraine to mark the 75th anniversary of the massacre yesterday, attending a commemorative mass at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in the city of Luck, where he presented a cross dedicated to the memory of the murdered Poles to the local bishop.
As many as 100,000 Polish citizens are believed to have been killed by Ukrainian nationalists as part of a genocide in nazi-occupied Poland between 1943 and 1945.
The peak of the ethnic-cleansing programme occurred in July 1943, with many of the victims tortured before being killed.
“This day is a sad one for many Polish families, who in 1942-1944 lost their loved ones in Volhynia. It is estimated that 100,000 Poles were murdered here,” Mr Duda said during a visit to the site of former Polish villages.
“Not soldiers, but ordinary people. Farmers, who cultivated the land, entire families, women, children and elderly people.”
The Polish parliament passed a resolution in 2016 which recognised the massacres as a genocide.
However, the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance claimed the killings in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia were a justifiable response to the persecution of Ukrainians by the Poles.
At the same time as Mr Duda remembered those killed in the Volhynia massacres, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited the village of Sahryn in south-eastern Poland, where over 200 Ukrainian civilians were killed in 1944.
“In the memory of innocent victims of Sahryn I am calling on all of you, Ukrainians and Poles, for Christian forgiveness.
“Mutual forgiveness and not revenge is what innocent victims of fratricidal conflicts between our people are calling for from the heavens,” Mr Poroshenko said.
Poland snubbed a Ukrainian offer for a joint commemoration as Kiev refuses to acknowledge the Volhynia massacres as a genocide.
Support for Stepan Bandera has seen a revival in Ukraine in recent years as part of a nationalist resurgence, particularly after the 2014 Maidan coup.
Mr Poroshenko signed a law in May 2015 making it a crime to “publicly exhibit a disrespectful attitude” toward the OUN, which collaborated with the nazis.
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