February 3, 2015 / 4:59 PM / 3 years ago

Russia, Poland argue over World War Two anniversary

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Poland traded diplomatic barbs on Tuesday over the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War Two in a sign of Moscow’s worsening ties with Warsaw, the European Union’s leading critic of its role in Ukraine.

Relations between Moscow and the West have already plummeted over the conflict in Ukraine, and Warsaw has advocated ratcheting up EU sanctions on Russia.

The latest spat centered around the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in Poland and preparations to mark the anniversary of the end of the World War Two in May.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna angered Russia nearly two weeks ago when he played up the role of Ukrainians, rather than Moscow’s Red Army, in liberating Auschwitz. He also questioned whether it was appropriate to mark the anniversary in Moscow.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin responded that Schetyna was shaming himself and insulting millions of Russians killed in the battle to defeat Nazi Germany.

On Tuesday, Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it formally complained to the Russian embassy, handing a protest note to Russia’s charge d’affaires at the ministry in Warsaw.

In a separate decision on Tuesday, a court in St Petersburg ordered the eviction of the Polish consulate from its building there, TASS reported.

Russia takes pride in defeating Nazi Germany in Europe. Poles are less enthusiastic as the Red Army brought nearly 50 years of subjugation to Moscow until Poland overthrew communism in 1989.

The Moscow celebrations in May will offer a prominent rallying point for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That makes some EU states hesitant to attend at the highest level. Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia, which they accuse of effectively driving, funding and arming the separatist rebellion in east Ukraine, as well as sending troops. Moscow denies those accusations.

Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Liisa Tuhkanen and Dominic Evans

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