Russia’s ambassador to Poland has been pelted with red paint thrown at him by people protesting against the war in Ukraine as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw on the anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Video footage released by Russian news agencies showed Sergey Andreev and several other men with paint on their clothes and faces surrounded by a crowd, some holding Ukrainian flags. In other videos of the incident circulating online, anti-war activists can be heard chanting “fascists” and “murderers”.
Andreev told the Russian news agency Tass that he and his team had not been seriously hurt in the incident. The protesters prevented the ambassador from laying flowers at the cemetery and Polish police escorted him away.
Russia’s foreign ministry responded to the incident by demanding Warsaw organize a new wreath-laying ceremony immediately and saying Poland should “ensure complete protection against any provocations”.
The war in Ukraine has overshadowed this year’s Victory Day when Russia remembers the 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in the second world war.
Poland, which has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees, canceled all official commemorations of the anniversary.
Speaking during a trip to Iran, the Polish foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, said: “It is an incident that should not have happened, an incident that is, by all means, regrettable.” He said diplomats enjoyed special protection regardless of the policies pursued by the authorities of their countries.
The Polish interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski, tweeted: “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 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.”
The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the “admirers of neo-Nazism have again shown their faces”, repeating Kremlin claims that Russia is fighting fascists in Ukraine.
The incident is likely to further raise tensions between Moscow and Warsaw, with Poland emerging as a key arms supply route in the Ukraine war. Russian officials have claimed without evidence that Poland aspires to annex the western regions of Ukraine, and Warsaw refused earlier this month to pay the Russian energy giant Gazprom in roubles, leading to a halt in gas supplies to the country.