Poland sorry over 'scandalous' riot outside Russian embassy

WARSAW (AFP) - Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Wednesday apologised for the "absolutely scandalous" ultra-nationalist rioting that occurred outside the Russian embassy in Warsaw and ignited a diplomatic row with Moscow.

The havoc erupted on Monday on Polish independence day, when demonstrators staging a march organised by far-right groups threw firecrackers and set alight a guard's booth outside the embassy.

"It's impossible to justify it, all we can do is apologise with full sincerity," Mr Komorowski told Poland's commercial Radio Zet.

He added that he personally apologised for the "absolutely scandalous incident" that gave the impression that Poland is anti-Russian.

The remarks came a day after the Russian foreign ministry summoned the Polish ambassador and demanded an apology, criticising the "passivity and delayed actions of the police" and requesting compensation for the damage.

The Polish foreign ministry meanwhile expressed its "deep regret" over the unrest outside the embassy, while its spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski tweeted on Monday: "There is no justification for hooliganism." Twelve police officers were hospitalised and 72 protestors were detained over the course of the march that drew between 20,000 and 50,000 people, many wearing balaclavas and carrying lighted flares.

The marchers also attacked a city-centre squat known as a hub of anti-fascist activity and set ablaze cars and a rainbow art installation covered in plastic flowers symbolising tolerance.

The groups involved included the marginal All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp, whose members are mainly football hooligans and who espouse eurosceptic, anti-Russian and anti-government views and oppose abortion and gay marriage.

Poland and Russia have a history of complicated relations marked by centuries of conflicts. Post-Communist Poland's integration into the West as an EU and NATO member is an ongoing source of tension.

That antagonism often bubbles to the surface on the anniversary of November 11, 1918, when Poland won back its independence after being wiped off the European map for 123 years in a three-way carve-up between Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.