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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Press treads minefield of WWII massacre

Polish and Ukrainian papers have trodden cautiously in the wake of a joint declaration by parliament in both countries marking the 60th anniversary of a World War II massacre.

Nationalists on both sides killed tens of thousands of civilians during the German occupation of Volyn, then in Poland but now in Ukraine. Historians have long clashed over who was to blame.

The Ukrainian daily Den regrets that Ukrainians and Poles fell victim to their old animosities instead of uniting in the face of threats from "two totalitarian regimes: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia".

It argues against blaming the tragedy "solely on Ukrainians, or on Nazis, Stalinists, Ukrainian or Polish nationalists".

It is impossible to build a bright good-neighbourly future without addressing a joint bloody past once again
Ukrayina Moloda

"The Volyn massacre was an explosion of aggression that had mounted for generations and was provoked by a social cataclysm - the war."

Another Ukrainian paper, Vecherniye Vesti, says Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is backing reconciliation to boost his popularity rating.

"Ukrainian popular trust in the president is far too low for him to speak on behalf of all." Thus his repentance "risks remaining his private affair", it says.

At the same time the paper says Ukraine and Poland must develop good-neighbourly relations.

"We have been and will be Poland's neighbours in the European home," it says.

Ukrayina Moloda in turn stresses the need to assess the past, saying reconciliation requires truth.

"It is impossible to build a bright good-neighbourly future without addressing a joint bloody past once again," the paper says.

Bitter dispute

Polish papers focus on the difficulties both parliaments faced in reaching a mutally acceptable form of words.

"The parliamentary debate in Kiev was just has stormy as it was in Warsaw, " Gazeta Wyborcza says.

The creation of a new conflict in Polish-Ukrainian relations would be a great setback for Ukraine
Viktor Yushchenko

The paper notes that the "bitter dispute" as to the wording continued "up to the last minute".

Ukrainian deputies, it says, wanted to add that the "Volyn tragedy" affected both Poles and Ukrainians alike.

The Ukrainian Speaker rang his Polish counterpart to see if a last-minute change would be possible.

"The answer was No!" the paper says. Thus finally, the Ukrainian parliament voted narrowly in favour.

Nor was controversy restricted to the Ukrainian side.

"The compromise text also evoked much emotion in the Polish parliament," the paper says, adding that some MPs had demanded the inclusion of the word "genocide" in the text.

Rzeczpospolita stresses that while the arguments went on "to the end", the net result was that the document was approved by both parliaments in quick succession.

"Both documents have the same content and were the result of negotiation," it says.

It points out that the vote in the Ukrainian parliament was very close and had seemed doomed only hours before.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko had spoken convincingly.

"The creation of a new conflict in Polish-Ukrainian relations would be a great setback for Ukraine," he said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Poland
15 Jun 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Ukraine
25 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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