Poland plans to bar Ukrainians with “anti-Polish views,” its foreign minister said on Thursday, emphasizing the nationalist credentials of his ruling party that often talks of the “historic wrongs” inflicted on Poles by their neighbors.
Witold Waszczykowski said the policy was a reaction to disrespect shown at a Polish cemetery in the western city of Lviv, which was part of Poland before World War II.
The foreign ministry said lion sculptures at the cemetery's entrances that hold shields inscribed with the Polish phrases “Always faithful” and “To you, Poland” had been covered up with boxes.
Waszczykowski said Ukrainians who express anti-Polish sentiments or make it difficult to maintain ageing Polish symbols in Ukraine would be refused visas. He did not say how the policy would be applied in practice.
“At the moment, we are launching procedures that will not allow people with extremely anti-Polish views to come to Poland ... Those who demonstrate and use administrative instruments against Poland will also bear the consequences,” Waszczykowski told state-run TVP1 television.
Poland is home to between 1.5 million and 2 million Ukrainians who left their country seeking jobs after the 2014 Maidan uprising and conflict with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine plunged their economy into recession.
Despite Poland's support for an independent Ukraine that can stand up to Russia, tensions over the countries’ troubled shared history have risen since the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in Poland two years ago.
Poland last year passed a resolution that declared the World War Two-era killing of tens of thousands of Poles by units in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) “genocide.” Ukraine rejects that label, saying the killings were tragic and calling for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Waszczykowski said Poland’s sympathy for Ukraine’s struggles with Russia must not push “historical issues” into the background.
“It cannot be that geopolitics, that the Russian aggression will be an excuse and that for years we will not settle the issues that divide us,” Waszczykowski said.