September 25, 2015 / 4:18 PM / in 2 years

Russia summons Polish ambassador after Soviet graves vandalized

MOSCOW/WARSAW (Reuters) - The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Polish ambassador to Moscow on Friday after graves of Soviet soldiers were vandalized in a Polish village, an act which Poland’s Foreign Ministry also condemned.

The incident comes just over a week after Ambassador Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz was summoned in Moscow to explain the removal of a Soviet-era statue in a Polish town.

A statement on the Russian ministry’s website demanded exhaustive measures to find and bring the vandals to justice.

“One gets the impression that the desecration of our memorial places has been raised in Poland to the rank of a state policy,” the statement said.

Fifty-seven graves were discovered vandalized on Wednesday at a cemetery in Milejczyce in north-eastern Poland, Polish media reported.

It was not clear when the graves were damaged, but the incident is likely to further strain ties between Russia and Poland, neighbors with a complicated history spanning war and peace.

“We condemn all acts of vandalism at war cemeteries,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said on Twitter, adding that police and a government council were carrying out investigations into the vandalism.

Photographs published in local Polish media showed smashed tombstones at the Milejczyce cemetery, with red stone Soviet stars scattered across the ground.

According to Poland’s official wartime cemeteries database, 1,615 Soviet soldiers are buried at the cemetery in mass graves each containing several dozen soldiers.

Speaking to private Polish broadcaster TVN24, Moscow’s envoy to Poland Sergey Andreyev said that Polish-Russian relations were at their worst since 1945.

“That is not our fault,” he said. “It’s the choice of the Polish side, which has frozen our political, as well as cultural contacts.”

Reporting by Alexander Winning and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow,; Wiktor Szary in Warsaw; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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