A group of angry protesters drenched Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev with bright red paint in an event to honor fallen World War II soldiers.
The Russian ambassador was in a Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Andreyev was splattered with ‘red blood’ as he tried to lay flowers for the Soviet soldiers that had fallen in the conflict.
Video footage shows protesters surrounding the Russian diplomat, chanting the words “fascists” and “murderer” as they were throwing red paint directly at the ambassador’s face. The video showed Sergey Andreyev paying no mind to the demonstrators as he wiped away paint from his face.
Directly after the incident, Andreyev would say to reporters that he was “proud of my country and my president!”
In an interview with the Russian news network TASS, Andreyev said that he and his team were not seriously hurt during the incident. According to him, the protestors tried to prevent them from laying the flowers and were eventually escorted away by Polish authorities.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has responded to the incident by calling those responsible “admirers of neo-Nazism.” It has demanded that the city of Warsaw organize a new wreath-laying ceremony in respect of the fallen Soviet troops. They added that the new ceremony should “have complete protection against any provocations.”
“The demolition of monuments to the heroes of World War II, the desecration of graves, and now the disruption of the flower-laying ceremony on a holy day for every decent person prove the already obvious — the West has set a course for the reincarnation of fascism,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
Russia began WWII on the side of Nazi Germany when it invaded Poland. The Russian army invaded Poland from the East and the country was partitioned and cut in half, with both German and Russian troops occupying the country until Germany declared war on the Soviet Union and invaded it in June of 1942, In the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, the NKVD precursor to the KGB massacred 22,000 Polish army officers, policemen, government officials, and civilians and left them in a mass grave.
Moscow has claimed that Ukraine is run by neo-Nazis, using it as one of the primary justifications for its “special military operations.” Through the months of the invasion, Russia has proclaimed that its forces are there to “denazify” Ukraine, whose government is led by a Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors.
The initial plan for the Russian embassy was to organize a march to mark the celebration of victory day but instead had to settle for a wreath-laying ceremony.
A report from Polish publication Gazeta Wyborcza said that things got heated between groups of pro-Kyiv and pro-Moscow supporters that were present at the event, requiring Polish police to intervene to separate the parties before Andreyev’s arrival.
Polish officials have also addressed the incident. During a trip to Iran, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said that “it is an incident that should not have happened, an incident that is, by all means, regrettable.” He noted that diplomats are entitled to special protection during their delegations, devoid of the policies and interests of the host countries.
On the other hand, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski defended the events that have transpired during the ceremony.
“The gathering of opponents of Russian aggression against Ukraine, where genocide takes place every day, was legal. The emotions of Ukrainian women participating in the demonstration, whose husbands courageously fight for the defense of the Motherland, are understandable,” the minister wrote in a tweet.
“The Polish authorities did not recommend the Russian ambassador to lay flowers on 9 May in Warsaw. The police allowed the ambassador to safely leave the scene,” Kaminski added.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the city’s Red Square on Victory Day. There he defended his administration’s decision to push through with the invasion of Ukraine. He said that the operation in Ukraine was a “preemptive pushback” against an attempt by the West to attack the Donbas. Putin presented no proof for any of his accusations.
“We saw military infrastructure being ramped up, hundreds of military advisers working, and regular deliveries of modern weapons from NATO. [The level of] danger was increasing every day,” Putin claimed. “Russia preventively rebuffed the aggressor. It was necessary, timely, and … right. The decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country,” Putin said.
What happened to Andreyev will likely raise already high tensions between Moscow and Warsaw, as Poland is gradually becoming a vital supply line for military weapons and equipment bound for Ukraine.
The Kremlin has also cut off Poland from its gas imports after the latter refused to make their payments in roubles. The move was branded as a “direct attack” on the country’s energy security by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.