Russia demands formal apology from Poland over anti-war protest in Warsaw

Russia's ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev was doused with red paint by people protesting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

WARSAW (REUTERS) - Russia on Wednesday (May 11) demanded a formal apology from Poland and threatened possible future reprisals for a protest in which Moscow's ambassador to Warsaw was doused with red paint.

The ambassador, Sergey Andreev, was accosted by people protesting against Russia's intervention in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw on Monday, drawing a furious reaction from Moscow.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned Polish Ambassador Krzysztof Krajewski to receive its protest.

"Russia expects an official apology from the Polish leadership in connection with the incident and demands the safety of the Russian ambassador and all employees of Russian foreign institutions in Poland are ensured," it said in a statement.

"A decision on further steps will be taken depending on Warsaw's reaction to our demands."

On Wednesday afternoon, red paint was splattered over the entrance to the Polish Embassy in Moscow, a spokesman for the Polish foreign ministry said.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said authorities had warned Andreev that attending the cemetery on Monday, when Russia was commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, risked provoking an incident, according to the state-run PAP news agency.

"However, what happened does not in any way change our position that diplomatic representatives of foreign countries are entitled to protection... no matter how much we feel the need to disagree with the policy of the government that the diplomat represents," Rau was quoted as saying.

Relations between Russia and the West have become fraught since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 in what it calls a "special military operation" to disarm the country and protect it from "fascists".

More than three million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, which has consistently argued for the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow to be tough, and has expelled 45 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow.

Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that Moscow launched an unprovoked act of aggression against its neighbour.

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