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28 Jan, 2020 16:30

'Insulting our grandparents’: Putin’s spokesman blasts Zelensky for insinuating USSR started World War II

'Insulting our grandparents’: Putin’s spokesman blasts Zelensky for insinuating USSR started World War II

Not content with simply watching Russia and Poland’s war-of-words over the history of World War II, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to join the fray on Monday, accusing the USSR of jointly starting the conflict.

While his observation may have pleased his Polish hosts at the event near Auschwitz, Vladimir Putin’s press representative described Zelensky’s comments as “incorrect” and “offensive.”

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In a sharp rebuke, Dmitry Peskov said Zelensky’s position “is hardly compatible” with the opinion of “millions of Ukrainians,” adding that surviving Ukrainian veterans who fought against Nazi Germany would not share in apportioning blame to the USSR.

“We strongly disagree with this statement,” Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

“The president of Ukraine identifies himself with the extremely erroneous, in our opinion, point of view of the Polish leadership and associates himself with a point of view that is offensive to tens of millions of Russians and citizens of former Soviet countries, whose parents, grandfathers, and relatives gave their lives for the liberation of Europe, including Poland, from fascism.”

"Therefore, we do not accept this statement, we consider it incorrect and insulting from the point of view of the memory of our grandfathers,” Peskov continued.

Speaking at a dinner in Oswiecim dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Zelensky seemed to insinuate that the Soviet Union was equally to blame for starting the war, along with Nazi Germany. He stated that Poland was the first victim of the “collusion of totalitarian regimes,” which “led to the outbreak of World War II and allowed the Nazis to launch the deadly Holocaust.”

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Zelensky’s speech was blasted by numerous Russian politicians. “This is shameful and blasphemous in relation to the memory of those who fell in the fight against fascism,” Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma’s committee on international affairs, said.

“Such statements also offend veterans who won the most terrible and bloody war, where the Russians and Ukrainians stood shoulder to shoulder.” Russian MP and former Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya said the Ukrainian leader’s grandfather, a Soviet soldier, would be ashamed of him.

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At the end of last year, Russia and Poland began a diplomatic wrangle over the legacy of World War II. Warsaw’s parliament, the Sejm, passed a resolution blaming both Germany and the USSR for starting the conflict, and Polish President Andrzej Duda canceled a planned trip to Israel, for the World Holocaust Forum, because Putin was invited to speak at the event. The Russian president earlier upset Polish authorities when he described the country’s war-time ambassador to Berlin as “a jerk” and “an anti-Semitic pig.”

Last year, Warsaw refused to invite Russian officials to events marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. As far as Moscow is concerned, the Soviet Union liberated Poland from the Nazis and later helped install a communist government with the support of local political leaders. The modern Polish state narrative asserts that the USSR attacked the country along with Nazi Germany, and then occupied it from 1945-1989.

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