Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly tried to tempt Poland into invading Ukraine with the goal of partitioning the country in 2013, former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski told Ben Judah in an article in Politico.
According to Sikorski, who was Poland’s foreign minister from 2007 until this past September and is now a member of parliament, the Polish Foreign Ministry first became alarmed over Putin’s expansionist ambitions in the summer of 2013. The Ministry discovered that Russia was thinking about which Ukrainian provinces it could conceivably grab even before protests broke out in Kiev in November of 2013.
The Kremlin reportedly attempted to include Poland in these machinations — by offering to allow Warsaw to take its own slice of western Ukraine.
Sikorski told Politico:
Putin wants Poland to commit troops to Ukraine. These were the signals they sent us. … We have known how they think for years. We have known this is what they think for years. This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, [soon to be President of the European Council] when he visited Moscow. He went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lwow is a Polish city and why don’t we just sort it out together. Luckily Tusk didn’t answer. He knew he was being recorded.
Despite Poland’s lack of interest in taking part in any violation of its eastern neighbour’s sovereignty, Russia reportedly continued to offer Poland the chance to partition Ukraine. On one occasion, according to Sikorski, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a veteran radical right-wing politician and then the speaker of Russia’s parliament, came to Warsaw and offered Poland the five provinces of western Ukraine.
“We made it very, very clear to them — we wanted nothing to do with this,” Sikorski told Politico. The belief within the Polish government at the time was that Zhirinovsky operated as a plausibly deniable feeler from Russia’s inner political circles.
However, Sikorski has come under fire for his statements to Politico.
He tweeted claims on Monday that some of his remarks may have been “overstated” in the interview. Sikorski is also under fire in back home for the interview, with some politicians calling for his removal from government for his dodging of reporter’s questions back in Warsaw.
Poland and Russia are not exactly on friendly terms at the moment. In a sign of escalating tension across the entirety of eastern and northern Europe, Poland said it arrested two Russian spies on October 17. Sweden is also searching for what it believes is a Russian submarine in its territorial waters.
Russia’s reported offer to Poland over Ukraine is reminiscent of Poland’s own partition during World War II. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conducted a series of partitions that split Poland, Romania, Finland, and the Baltic States between the two nations under the notorious and long-secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Ukraine has been locked in a frozen conflict with Russian-backed separatists since early this year. The eastern provinces of Ukraine are still locked in fighting between the government and rebel forces, despite the existence of a proposed ceasefire. Russia also continues to occupy the Ukrainian province of Crimea.
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