A senior Polish Foreign Ministry official has asserted that Ukraine will not be able to join the European Union until it addresses the exhumation of the bodies of Poles who were massacred by Ukrainian Nazi collaborators during World War II.
The issue in question is the exhumation of the victims of the Volyn massacre that occurred in regions of what was formerly Polish territory, which now belong to western Ukraine. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Poles were estimated to have been killed in an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Ukrainian nationalists in the Volhynia and Galicia regions during 1943 and 1944. This was part of a larger operation in which the paramilitary wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), known as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), aided the Nazis in exterminating Jews in German-occupied territory over multiple instances.
Polish Undersecretary of State, Pawel Jablonski, emphasized the need for Ukraine to address this historical issue before it can move forward with its aspirations of EU membership. He stated that Ukraine cannot dream of joining the EU without first resolving this matter, a sentiment that many Ukrainians share. Jablonski made these comments during an interview with Warsaw’s Radio ZET.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki revealed last month that a mass grave containing victims of the Volyn massacre was discovered in the Ternopol Region of western Ukraine. Warsaw has since sought the approval of the Ukrainian government to exhume the bodies, carry out examinations, and provide a dignified burial for the victims. Moreover, the Polish Foreign Ministry has called for an apology from Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky for the massacre; an appeal that Ukraine has deemed unacceptable and unfortunate.
Tensions between the two countries have also been exacerbated by Ukraine’s ongoing celebration of OUN leaders, including Stepan Bandera, who was posthumously glorified as a national hero in 2010. Since the US-backed ousting of Ukraine’s elected government in 2014, numerous streets and squares across the country have been renamed in Bandera’s honor.
Addressing the issue, Jablonski expressed his reluctance to set specific conditions for Ukraine to gain support from Poland regarding its EU accession. However, he indicated that cooperation between the two nations could be challenging unless the Volyn massacre matter is resolved.
Furthermore, the historical disagreements between Poland and Ukraine have persisted despite Poland’s steadfast support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Nevertheless, Polish ambassador to Kiev Bartosz Cichocki stated that for the time being, Warsaw will continue to assist Ukraine in its defense, while keeping the ongoing disagreements separate from the ongoing conflict.