Russia’s ambassador to Poland was pelted with red paint thrown at him by protesters against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw on the anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Video footage released by Russian news agencies showed Sergey Andreev and several other men with paint on their clothes and faces surrounded by a crowd, some holding Ukrainian flags. In other videos of the incident circulating online, anti-war activists can be heard chanting “fascists” and “murderers”.
Andreev told Russian news agency Tass that he and his team were not seriously injured in the incident. Protestors prevented the ambassador from laying flowers at the cemetery, and Polish police escorted him away.
The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the incident by asking Warsaw to immediately hold another wreath laying ceremony and saying that Poland should “ensure complete protection against any provocation”.
The war in Ukraine overshadowed this year’s Victory Day, when Russia remembers the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in World War II.
Poland, which has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees, has canceled all official commemorations of the anniversary.
Speaking on a trip to Iran, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said: “This is an incident that should not have happened, an incident that is, by all means, regrettable. .” He said that diplomats enjoyed special protection regardless of the policies pursued by the authorities in their countries.
Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski tweeted: “The gathering of opponents of Russian aggression against Ukraine, where genocide is taking place every day, was legal. The emotions of Ukrainian women participating in the protest, whose husbands bravely fight in defense of the homeland, are understandable.
“The Polish authorities did not recommend that the Russian ambassador lay flowers on May 9 in Warsaw. The police allowed the ambassador to leave the premises safely.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “admirers of neo-Nazism showed their faces again”, repeating Kremlin claims that Russia is fighting fascists in Ukraine.
The incident is likely to further escalate tensions between Moscow and Warsaw, with Poland becoming a key arms supply route in the war against Ukraine. Russian officials have claimed without evidence that Poland aspires to annex western regions of Ukraine, and Warsaw earlier this month refused to pay Russian energy giant Gazprom in roubles, leading to the shutdown of the country’s gas supply.