Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday (7 May) criticised a policy of “appeasement” towards Russia in the context of the separatist conflict in Ukraine.
“Crimes are committed today in the 21st century amid the aggression against my country Ukraine, despite the cruelest lessons of the past,” Poroshenko said in the Polish port city of Gdansk.
He was speaking at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, attended by leaders including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU President Donald Tusk.
“Astonishingly, we see attempts to appease the attackers,” he continued, without specifying the events or people responsible for the policy.
Poroshenko also slammed Russia’s upcoming May 9 World War II victory parade in Moscow as a “parade of cynicism”.
“The European Union is facing the most difficult challenge in its history,” Poroshenko said. “A test of its unity, its solidarity, its fundamental principles.”
Europe and the United States have slapped the toughest sanctions since the Cold War on Moscow over allegations that it is behind the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The country’s warring parties tried to shore up a faltering truce deal Wednesday after Kyiv said five soldiers were killed in clashes in the war-torn east.
The move came as US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday that pro-Russian separatists appeared to be making preparations for a fresh offensive.
With Ukrainian servicemen dying almost daily despite a ceasefire, Kiev’s pro-Western government is using the anniversary to highlight Russian belligerence.
Public-service advertisements make a direct link between the patriotic valour of World War Two and the sacrifices in today’s fight against separatists, a conflict that has already killed more than 6,100 people.
In one, a young soldier says he has his grandfather’s wartime Soviet Order of the Red Star in a pocket over his heart before strapping on his helmet to go and join his combat unit.
Spurning what is expected to be a display of military swagger in Moscow on Saturday, Kyiv plans to put the accent at home on reconciliation rather than triumphalism and victory.
But some Ukrainians fear associating the struggle in World War Two with today’s struggle against Russia will deepen splits in a politically divided population and hand propaganda gifts to Moscow, which equates Kiev with treachery and fascism.