Ukrainian MPs approve ‘special status’ for Poles
The Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on Thursday adopted legislation allowing Poles to legally stay in the country for one and a half years without needing to obtain any special permits while enjoying similar rights as Ukrainians.
The bill on ‘special guarantees’ for Polish nationals was supported by 283 MPs, according to MP Yaroslav Zheleznyak. The law, once signed by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, will provide Poles with the right to employment, economic activity, education, and medical care, as well as making them eligible for some social benefits.
Rada deputy Olga Sovgirya said in mid-July that in addition to these social guarantees, Poles with European qualifications, including doctors, health workers, and obstetricians, will be able to work in Ukrainian state clinics.
Zelensky introduced the bill on July 11, a day commemorating the victims of the Volhynia massacre, in which tens of thousands of Poles were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists during World War II. News about the bill’s introduction to the Rada was announced by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who said that Zelensky’s move has symbolic meaning, as the nation that had “tried to get rid of Poles at all costs” was now welcoming them.
In May, Zelensky’s office stated that Ukraine would grant ‘special status’ to Poles as a gesture of gratitude. Since the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Poland has welcomed the biggest number of Ukrainian refugees (as of now, more than 1.2 million, according to the UNHCR) and provided them with the right to stay legally for 18 months.
At the time, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich criticized Zelensky’s decision, saying the current rapprochement between Ukraine and Poland may lead to an actual merger of the countries and to the “total annihilation” of the Ukrainian state.
His remarks were echoed on Thursday by a member of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, Olga Kovitidi. Speaking to newspaper Izvestia, the senator claimed that the Rada’s decision to provide Poles with special status betrays Ukraine’s national interests.
“Without firing a shot, Zelensky let the Poles into Ukraine, who had been dreaming about this for centuries,” Kovitidi said.