Poland warns of ‘appropriate response’ after Russia closes Polish consulate in Smolensk

Russia’s announced closure of a Polish consulate in its western city of Smolensk is a “hostile and reprehensible act” and Poland “reserves the right to take appropriate steps in response,” the Polish foreign ministry has said.

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Photo:PAP/Albert Zawada

The ministry outlined Poland’s position in a statement shared on Friday afternoon, Polish state news agency PAP reported. 

It said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informs that on 14 July 2023, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Moscow received a diplomatic note from the Russian Federation concerning the withdrawal of the consent to the functioning of the Consular Agency of the Republic of Poland in Smolensk, given on 27 June 2011. The Consular Agency will close down on 31 August 2023, and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Moscow will take over its tasks.”

‘Hostile and incomprehensible act’

The Polish foreign ministry stated: “The decision by the authorities of the Russian Federation is a highly symbolic gesture, as well as another hostile and incomprehensible act aimed at preventing Polish diplomatic missions and consular posts from functioning.”

‘Poland reserves the right to take appropriate steps in response’

It added: “The Republic of Poland reserves the right to take appropriate steps in response. At the same time, the MFA highlights that Polish consular services will make every effort so that Polish citizens wishing to pay homage to the murdered or needing urgent consular assistance will continue to receive all necessary support.”

‘Increasingly bold attempts to distort history’

The Polish foreign ministry further stated: “As the sites of a murder of nearly 22,000 Polish citizens by the NKVD in 1940 and the plane crash in 2010, Katyn and Smolensk bear a special, symbolic meaning to all Poles. The decision taken by the Russian authorities is proof of increasingly bold attempts to distort history and negate responsibility for crimes perpetrated by the Russian state and specific, known by their names, citizens of that country.”

The statement added: “The crimes committed today in Ukraine are a continuation of this barbaric practice. We believe that there will come a time when the Russian Federation and its authorities will finally respect historical truth and settle accounts with their past. Only this way will they cease to pose a threat to the world.”

The Polish foreign ministry explained that the Polish consulate in the western Russian city of Smolensk “ was exercising ongoing supervision over the site of the Smolensk crash and the Polish War Cemetery in Katyn.”

It added: “The Agency provided support to Polish pilgrims who regularly visited the burial and memorial sites which are important to the Polish side. Also the descendants of the citizens of the Soviet Union murdered by the NKVD who had been buried alongside Poles could, thanks to the functioning of the Polish Consular Agency, learn the truth about Soviet crimes and better understand the history of their country.”

’We will respond in kind’: Polish PM

Earlier on Friday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland would give an equal response if Russia closed down its diplomatic missions, news agencies reported.

Morawiecki told a news conference: „We regularly receive information about aggressive diplomatic actions from Russia. If in the end it comes to it that Russia starts to liquidate our offices we will respond in kind.”

Russian justification of the move ‘totally false’: Polish envoy 

Poland’s Ambassador to Moscow Ryszard Krajewski said Russia claimed to be closing down the Polish consulate in Smolensk in retaliation for “unfriendly actions by Poland.”

The envoy told the PAP news agency on Friday afternoon: “Russian officials said the government in Moscow had withdrawn the consent to the functioning of the Consular Agency of the Republic of Poland in Smolensk.”

Moscow said it was “restoring parity in the number of diplomatic and consular missions run by Poland and Russia” in response to “unfriendly actions by Poland,” according to Krajewski.

He said: “By this the Russian side means Poland’s takeover of Polish-based real estate that had been unlawfully occupied by Russia. Moscow’s interpretation is totally false because these pieces of real estate weren’t diplomatic property and they were being used in a way that is incompatible with the Vienna Convention.”

The Polish ambassador added that Poland had reclaimed the real estate “under final court judgments.”

Krajewski stated: “The Russian side had been aware for many, many years that it was using this property unlawfully and did nothing about it.”

Moscow has been enraged by Poland’s decision to pull down monuments to Red Army soldiers who died during World War II, according to Reuters.

In May, Russia summoned Poland’s chargé d’affaires to protest against what it called the „seizure” of its embassy school building in Warsaw.

Poland says Russia was occupying Polish state property, news outlets reported.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.

(pm/gs)

Source:  IAR, PAP, gov.pl, Reuters, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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