Ukraine, Poland in effort to defuse historical dispute


Kiev (AFP)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Wednesday said they would work to defuse recent tensions over the wartime killing of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists.

The Polish president's visit to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine came after Warsaw denounced Kiev for banning the exhumation of victims of massacres in the Ukrainian Volyn region, which borders Poland.

The move was a tit-for-tat response in protest against Poland destroying a number of memorials to Ukrainian nationalists.

"I called on President Poroshenko ... to agree that exhumations be started again," Duda told reporters after meeting with the Ukrainian leader.

"We agreed ... to approve and lift as soon as possible the ban on exhumations," the Polish president said.

"I consider this as the first step to overcome the impasse that has appeared."

Poroshenko said the two leaders "came to the mutual opinion that history should not influence the strategic aspect of relations" between the two countries.

"One side wins from historical conflicts between Ukraine and Poland, and this is neither Ukraine, nor Poland, but Russia," Poroshenko said.

"That is why we have to find a clear way out of this situation."

Ukraine and its western neighbour Poland have close ties.

Warsaw was a firm supporter of Kiev after the ouster of a pro-Russian president set off Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a Russian-backed insurgency in the east of the country.

But in past months there has been renewed rancour over historical disputes, including the killing of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II in Volyn.

Poland's rightwing-dominated parliament last year stirred Ukrainian anger by recognising as a "genocide" the massacre of some 100,000 Poles by Ukrainian nationalists more than seven decades ago.