Kiev must resolve the issue of exhuming Volyn massacre victims before it can join the bloc, a Polish official has insisted
Kiev has no chance of being considered for accession to the EU until it resolves the issue of exhuming the bodies of Poles who were massacred by Ukrainian Nazi collaborators during World War II, a top Polish Foreign Ministry official has insisted.
“In my opinion, without a solution to this issue – and many Ukrainians are already aware of this – Ukraine cannot dream of joining the European Union,” Polish Undersecretary of State Pawel Jablonski said on Tuesday in an interview with Warsaw’s Radio ZET. “Therefore, we will absolutely emphasize that without as solution to this issue, there will be no long-term reconciliation with Ukraine.”
At issue is the exhumation of Volyn massacre victims in territory that is currently part of western Ukraine. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Poles were murdered in an ethnic-cleansing campaign perpetrated by Ukrainian nationalists in the western Ukrainian and eastern Polish regions known as Volhynia and Galicia in 1943 and 1944. The paramilitary wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), known as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), carried out the massacre and helped the Nazis exterminate Jews in German-occupied territory on multiple occasions.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced late last month that a mass grave filled with Volyn massacre victims had been located in western Ukraine’s Ternopol Region. Warsaw has sought Ukrainian government approval for the bodies to be exhumed, examined, and given a dignified burial. The Polish Foreign Ministry also has called for an apology for the massacre from Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky – a demand that Kiev deemed “unacceptable and unfortunate.”
Relations with Warsaw also have been strained by Kiev’s continued veneration of OUN leaders, including Stepan Bandera, who was elevated to the status of a national hero in 2010. Multiple streets and squares throughout Ukraine have been renamed after Bandera since the US-backed overthrow of the country’s elected government in 2014.
Jablonski said in Tuesday’s interview that while he was reluctant to set specific conditions for Warsaw to back Ukraine’s EU accession, cooperation with Kiev would be difficult without resolving the massacre issue.
The two countries have continued to clash over their shared history despite Poland’s staunch support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Warsaw will continue to help Ukraine defend itself, keeping the disagreements “separate from the war,” for the time being, Polish ambassador to Kiev Bartosz Cichocki said in September.