Ukraine agrees to exhume graves of Poles killed in WWII

Ukraine has agreed to exhume the graves of Poles killed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in World War II, Poland's deputy foreign minister said Friday.

"The Ukrainian side has formally informed us with a note that exploration works with the participation of Polish specialists in Ukraine will be possible," Marcin Przydacz told Polish Press Agency.

“[This] is a big change from how the Ukrainian authorities have previously approached this situation. We are pleased with this change. We believe that this is a step in a very good direction,” he added.

Poland’s Freedom and Democracy Foundation, which deals with the search for burial places of Poles in the Borderlands and their commemoration, welcomed the move.

"We would like to thank the Ukrainian authorities for this important decision and all representatives of the Republic of Poland, (...) who took action to enable the search and exhumation of our compatriots,” the foundation said in a statement.

The search for the graves will begin either this year or next spring, Maciej Dancewicz, vice-president of the foundation, told Polish Press Agency.

The killings took place in 1945 in the town of Puzniki in Podolia, in the former Ternopil Voivodeship.

According to Dancewicz, nearly 1,000 Polish people lived in Puzniki.

In the summer of 1944, the area was overrun by Soviet troops, who drove out the retreating Germans.

The Soviets mobilized most of the men to the army, depriving the inhabitants of defense against the Ukrainian Insurgent Army troops operating in the area.

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army engaged in guerilla warfare against the Soviet Union, Communist Poland and Nazi Germany.

On the night of Feb. 13-14, 1945, between 80-100 people were killed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

All traces of Puzniki were removed by the Soviet authorities after the war.

In a video message on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "Dear Poland, you regained independence 104 years ago today and here are my 104 words for you.

"You are our sister. Our relations have fared variously in the past but we are relatives, we are free."

Source: Anadolu Agency