Polish ultimatum: Ukraine must address decades-old war atrocities to progress in EU bid
Paweł Jabłoński. Photo: EPA

Ukraine should resolve the issue of exhumation of the victims of the Volyn tragedy if it seeks to join the EU, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Paweł Jabłoński said in an interview with radio ZET.

After the discovery of recently buried remains of Polish victims of the Volyn tragedy near the village of Puzhnyky in Ternopil Oblast, Jabłoński said that Warsaw will take measures for a quick exhumation and investigation of this case.

"I always talk about this and I will say it again: in our opinion, without solving this issue – and many Ukrainians are already aware of this – Ukraine cannot dream of joining the EU," he said.

Asked whether this is a condition for Poland's support of Ukraine's membership in the EU, Jabłoński noted that "it is not about conditions, but about reality."

"If we want to be in the same community with a country with which we have a serious dispute, then it must be resolved, otherwise it will be difficult to cooperate," the diplomat stressed.

The topic of the Volyn tragedy is one of the most controversial in Ukrainian-Polish relations. The views of Kyiv and Warsaw on the causes, responsibility and number of victims on both sides are somewhat different.

REFERENCE. The Volyn tragedy (in Polish historiography, Pol. Rzeź wołyńska, "Volyn Massacre") – mutual ethnic cleansing of the Polish and Ukrainian population, carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Polish Home Army with the participation of Polish Schutzmannschaft battalions, Soviet partisans and Ukrainian and Polish civilians in 1943 during the Second World War in Volyn. Tens of thousands of people were killed. On December 17, 2014, during a speech in Warsaw before both houses of the Polish Parliament and in the presence of Polish President Komorowski, Polish Prime Minister Kopacz and members of the Polish government, President Poroshenko asked Poles for forgiveness for the Volyn tragedy. At the beginning of June 2016, famous Ukrainians, in particular former presidents Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko, addressed an open appeal to the government of the Polish state and the entire society, which contained the words "we are sorry and we ask for forgiveness".

On June 9, 2023, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Heritage of Poland, Jarosław Sellin, stated that the understanding and perception of the Volyn tragedy ceases to be irreconcilable in Poland and Ukraine, and historical differences are gradually being removed.

On August 2, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland stated that the final reconciliation between the countries cannot happen without "settlement" of the issue of the Volyn tragedy.