WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Russian ambassador to Poland was splattered with red paint thrown at him by protesters opposing the war in Ukraine, preventing him from paying his respects Monday at a Warsaw cemetery to soldiers of the Red Army dead in World War II.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the attack, saying “we will not be afraid” when “Europeans should be afraid to see their reflection in a mirror”.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau called the incident “very deplorable”.
“Diplomats enjoy special protection regardless of the policies pursued by the governments they represent,” he said.
Ambassador Sergey Andreev arrived at the Cemetery of Soviet Soldiers to lay flowers on Victory Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s defeat by the Allies. The great Russian patriotic holiday was celebrated with pomp during a parade on Red Square in Moscow.
Upon arriving at the Soviet military cemetery in the Polish capital, Andreev was greeted by hundreds of activists opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Red paint was thrown at him from behind before a protester standing next to him threw a large drop of it in his face.
The demonstrators carried Ukrainian flags and chanted “fascists” and “murderers” at him, while some were dressed in white sheets smeared in red, symbolizing the Ukrainian victims of the Russian war. Others around him were also seen splattered with what appeared to be red paint.
Zakharova said that “admirers of neo-Nazis showed their faces again.” She said that with the removal of monuments to the Soviet Army’s World War II heroes, the attack reflected the “reincarnation course of fascism”.
Some Russian commentators have suggested that the attack on the ambassador may prompt Moscow to recall him and ask the Polish ambassador to leave Russia.
The Polish government has faced criticism for not providing more security for the ambassador, allowing an incident to occur that Russia could use to paint Poland as hostile to Moscow.
Among the critics was a former interior minister, Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who said he did not understand why there was not more protection for the ambassador when for weeks “one could feel how the 9 May could end in Warsaw”.
Poland’s current interior minister, however, said the Polish government opposes the ambassador against laying a wreath at the cemetery, and noted that the police helped him leave the scene in completely safe. The ambassador had originally hoped to hold a Victory Day march in Warsaw, but state and city authorities opposed it – and some saw his appearance at the cemetery as a provocation.
“The gathering of opponents of Russian aggression against Ukraine, where the crime of genocide is committed every day, was legal,” added Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski. “The emotions of Ukrainian women participating in the protest, whose husbands are bravely fighting in defense of their homeland, are understandable.”
Demonstrators also marched through Warsaw on Sunday evening to protest the war, bringing a tank on a tractor and parking it in front of the Russian Embassy. Since the start of the war on February 24, images of Ukrainian tractors pulling Russian tanks have become symbols of Ukrainian resistance.
The Soviet cemetery is located in the middle of a vast park on the road connecting the city center to the international airport. It is the final resting place of more than 20,000 Red Army soldiers who perished on Polish soil fighting while helping to defeat Nazi Germany.
While Poland removed some Red Army monuments in the decades following the overthrow of the Moscow-backed communist regime, it allowed the cemetery to remain intact. Although Soviet soldiers defeated the Nazis, earlier in the war Soviet forces invaded Poland following a secret deal with the German Nazi government and committed atrocities against the Poles, including mass executions and mass murders. deportations to Siberia.
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