WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland tore down four monuments on Thursday to Red Army soldiers who died during World War Two, as historically strained relations between Warsaw and Moscow hit new lows due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The legacy of World War Two is a divisive issue in Polish-Russian relations, and the conflict in Ukraine has prompted Poland to step up the demolition of memorials to fallen Soviet troops across the country.
Russia argues that it liberated Poland when its forces drove out German Nazis at the end of the war. Most Poles believe that the Soviet Union replaced Nazi occupation with another form of repression.
“This monument is a monument of lies,” said Karol Nawrocki, head of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), as he stood before a statue in Glubczyce in southern Poland shortly before its demolition.
“The Soviets did not bring freedom in 1945, they brought a new enslavement.”
Monuments in Byczyna and Staszow in southern Poland and Bobolice in the north were also demolished.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the demolition of the monuments.
“This is a lie, a monstrous lie, because so many citizens of the Soviet Union died liberating Poland,” he told reporters when asked about Nawrocki’s comments.
“(It is) another attempt to fool the younger generation of Poles, feeding them lies and provoking hatred for Russians.”
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Gosia Wojtunik; Editing by Peter Graff)