Poland marks 75 years since Volhynia 'genocide'

Poland's prime minister has called the WWII-era massacre of thousands of Poles by Ukrainian nationalists a "genocide", a term that has stoked tensions with neighbouring Ukraine.

Discord over the Volhynia massacres between 1943 and 1945 has led to a diplomatic chill between Kiev and Warsaw, after relations deteriorated when the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in Poland in 2015.

"This is an exceptional crime, a crime of cruel genocide that had no precedent on such a scale in Polish history," PiS Premier Mateusz Morawiecki said yesterday at an official ceremony in Warsaw dedicated to the victims of the massacres.

In 2016, Poland's PiS-dominated parliament recognised the Volhynia massacres as a "genocide", straining ties with Kiev, which acknowledges the killing but has stopped short of recognising it as genocide.

Between 1943 and 1945, members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) killed up to 100,000 Poles in the Volhynia region of what is now northwest Ukraine. The UPA's main objective was to win Ukraine's independence by ousting Nazi and later Soviet occupiers and to clear Poles from territories that were historically Ukrainian land.

The 2016 Polish resolution also acknowledges bloody reprisals by Polish partisan groups against Ukrainians that various sources say could have claimed up to 20,000 lives.

The presidents of Poland and Ukraine held separate ceremonies on Sunday marking 75 years since the massacres, as the row over history continued to sour bilateral ties.

Several Ukrainian media outlets reported Warsaw had refused an offer by Kiev to mark the anniversary together, citing anonymous diplomatic sources.

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