Poland and France trade barbs over Russia’s war against Ukraine

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Friday summoned the French ambassador over French President Emmanuel Macron’s reference to the Polish prime minister as a “far-right anti-Semite” in a budding feud over Russia’s war against Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear when exactly Ambassador Frederic Billet would arrive at the Polish Foreign Ministry. Officials in Poland blamed the harsh words on campaign zeal ahead of this weekend’s presidential election in France.

The bitter exchange between Macron and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appears to be an unwelcome crack in the unity of the European Union that has sprung up amid outrage over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

In an interview published online on Thursday by the French newspaper Le Parisien, Macron called Morawiecki a “far-right anti-Semite who bans LGBT persons”. Macron, who is seeking a second term in Sunday’s vote, also claimed Morawiecki tried to help French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Piotr Mueller, a spokesman for Poland’s right-wing government, said it was a “lie” to suggest that Morawiecki had something to do with anti-Semitism and blamed Macron’s comments on the emotions of a heated election campaign.

Poles are particularly sensitive to accusations of anti-Semitism because of the Holocaust that Nazi Germany largely carried out in Poland. Most European Jews lived in Poland before World War II, and millions perished in extermination camps or ghettos run by German Nazi troops who occupied the country during the war.

Macron did not specify what he was referring to, but Morawiecki angered Israel and many Jews in 2018 when he said there were also “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust. Morawiecki’s government also introduced a law that criminalizes assigning blame to Poland for Holocaust crimes committed by the Germans. Another law introduced by Morawiecki’s team prohibits the return of private property owned by Holocaust victims that was later seized by the state.

The French leader’s comments were in response to Morawiecki’s harsh criticism of his talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a still-vain attempt to end the bloodshed in Ukraine. Morawiecki said Monday that no conversations should be held with (war) criminals such as the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler or the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin.

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