Russia has demanded a formal apology from Poland and threatened possible future reprisals after Moscow’s ambassador to Warsaw was doused with red paint by protesters.
Russian ambassador Sergey Andreev was jostled, heckled and splattered with red paint by people protesting against Russia’s war in Ukraine when he attempted to place flowers at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw on Monday.
Video clips posted to social media showed the ambassador being surrounded and splashed in the face with paint at the event to mark Victory Day – the Russian holiday marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Polish police later helped the ambassador to leave the scene safely.
“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,” the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“A decision on further steps will be taken depending on Warsaw’s reaction to our demands.”
Polish Ambassador to Moscow Krzysztof Krajewski was summoned to the ministry to receive the apology demand.
Krajewski said he responded to the ministry by repeating the words of Poland’s foreign minister who called the incident “highly deplorable” and something that should never have happened given the protected status of diplomats.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said that authorities warned the Russian ambassador that attending the cemetery 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.
In an apparent reprisal, red paint was splattered over the entrance to the Polish Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Polish foreign ministry said. The ministry said that a plaque with the Polish national emblem at the entrance to the embassy had been doused in the paint.
Traditionally reserved, bilateral relations between Moscow and Warsaw have been tense since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which borders Poland. The Polish government has been urging for tough international sanctions, including a ban on Russian energy sources.
More than three million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, and Warsaw has expelled 45 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow.