Polish President’s Crimea Comments Spark Furious Backlash


Uncertainty expressed by Polish President Andrzej Duda over whether Ukraine was able to retake Crimea has prompted a stern reaction.

Poland has been a staunch ally of Ukraine since the start of the war, pledging aid and equipment for Kyiv’s goals against Russian aggression; these include recapturing all of the peninsula Vladimir Putin illegally seized in 2014.

Duda has previously said that all of Ukraine including Crimea must be liberated and, in August, added that whether Kyiv can retain the peninsula was key to preserving the world order.

President of Poland Andrzej Duda on the first day of the 2023 NATO Summit on July 11, 2023 in Vilnius, Lithuania. He has sparked anger in Ukraine by saying he was uncertain that Kyiv…

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In an interview with YouTube Channel Zero, Duda said he believed that Kyiv can regain the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Vladimir Putin has declared annexed, even though Moscow does not fully control them.

However, Duda told the interviewer, “I don’t know if (Ukraine) will regain Crimea.” He said that “the Crimean peninsula is a special place… also for historical reasons. Because in fact, if we look historically, it was in Russia’s hands for most of the time.”

Duda’s comments prompted Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Vasyl Zvarych to post on X that “Crimea is Ukraine: it is and will remain so.”

“The liberation of Crimea is a shared task for us and the free world,” Zvarych wrote, “there is no doubt that we will achieve it.”

Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 and became a part of independent Ukraine in 1991.

“Even in (the) USSR Crimea was under Ukrainian control most of the time, learn history,” posted Ukrainian X user, Oksii.

Meanwhile, X account Leonid XB Ragozin wrote: “Strange comment, especially when applied to areas near Kharkiv or Chernihiv which were controlled by Moscow for much longer.”

There was also a strong reaction from within Poland. Roman Giertych, a lawmaker of the Civic Coalition (KO), called Duda’s comment a “stupid statement,” adding that “there are cities in our country that in their history belonged to Poland for a shorter time than to another country.”

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, a member of the new pro-European governing coalition, said Warsaw “recognizes the independence of Ukraine within its internationally established borders.”

Duda sought to defuse the row saying in a post on X on Saturday that “Russia’s attack on Ukraine and occupation of internationally recognized territories of Ukraine, including Crimea, is a crime.”

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian and Polish foreign ministries for comment.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had criticized Hungary’s hesitation to continue supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia as a “threat” to EU security. Leaders of the bloc settled on a $54 billion aid deal for Kyiv on Thursday after weeks of opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Zsuzsanna Vegh, associate researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told Newsweek in a statement the deal will mean the EU “can now act together as a bloc” and avoid lengthy negotiations on an intergovernmental aid package outside of the EU frameworks.

“If reports on this deal are correct, and there is no more to the leaders’ discussion, then this is a really important safety net for Ukraine,” Vegh added.