February 6, 2018 / 4:46 PM / 18 days ago

Ukraine says Polish bill on historic crimes could harm ties

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution condemning a Polish bill that imposes jail terms for denying that Ukrainian nationalists committed crimes against Poles in 1925-1950 or collaborated with Nazi Germany, saying it could harm relations.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday he would sign the bill into law. The bill also makes it a crime to suggest that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust, drawing criticism from Israel, the United States and activists.

Warsaw has given Kiev strong backing in its standoff with Moscow over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a pro-Russian separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine. Poland also supports Ukraine’s ambition to join the European Union one day.

However the two neighbours remain divided over their painful shared past, including the massacre of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

Ukraine’s resolution called on Duda not to sign the bill into law as it could harm Polish-Ukrainian relations.

FILE PHOTO: Activists and supporters of Ukraine's nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party take part in a rally against a new Polish bill that would impose prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and for suggesting complicity on the part of the Polish nation or state in Nazi Germany's crimes, outside the Polish embassy in Kiev, Ukraine February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich /File Photo

“The adopted amendments do not correspond to the nature and content of the strategic partnership that exists between the countries,” said the text of the resolution, which was posted on the Ukrainian parliament’s website.

The bill criminalises the denial of crimes committed by “Ukrainian nationalists and members of Ukrainian formations collaborating with the German Third Reich”, it said.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Hanna Hopko, head of the Ukrainian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said the amendment would stifle debate.

“This law is incompatible with democratic values and paves the way for manipulations and the strengthening of anti-Ukrainian tendencies in Polish society,” she told lawmakers.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Poland and Ukraine have tried to defuse historic tensions, rooted in centuries of territorial conflict and shifting alliances.

But Poland upset Ukraine in 2016 with a resolution that declared the World War Two-era killing of about 100,000 Polish men, women and children by UPA units to be “genocide”. And Kiev irked Warsaw by banning the exhumation of Poles killed in Ukraine during World War Two.

Despite such disputes, the countries retain close economic ties, and up to 1.5 million Ukrainians currently work in Poland.

Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Warsaw; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Matthias Williams and Gareth Jones

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