West now realises “enormous mistake” of not listening to our Russia warnings, says Polish PM

Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine have jointly called for tougher sanctions to be introduced against Russia and its oligarchs to prevent the current “slaughter in the middle of Europe”. They want seized assets to be used for rebuilding Ukraine.

The Polish prime minister noted that countries in the region have long been warning of the dangers Russia posed, but only now have western leaders “sobered up” and realised their “enormous mistake”. They must now also accept that there can be “no return to ‘business as usual’ with Russia”.

The remarks came after a summit in Warsaw of the Lublin Triangle, a forum set by Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine in 2020. While normally the trio discuss a range of issues, including energy, infrastructure and culture, today’s meeting focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences.

Poland and Lithuania – whose prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki and Ingrida Šimonytė attended in person – expressed their governments support for Ukraine, whose Denys Shmyhal joined the summit via video link.

Morawiecki pledged that Poland and Lithuania “will do everything we can to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty” because “we know that if this sovereignty is destroyed, European values will be destroyed”.

He warned that Russia is not only a danger to Ukraine, but is a “totalitarian aggressor threatening other countries on the eastern flank of NATO and the EU and wanting to threaten the whole of Europe”.

The Polish prime minister noted that the Lublin Triangle states have been warning of a potential attack “for months”, but that “this voice was received with scepticism, [with] disbelief”.

“For years the West has lived in the hope that Putin and Russia will change, normalise” said Morawiecki. “We warned [that they would not] and unfortunately today we have no satisfaction when we see the late sobering up of the West…Europe today is discovering that a business marriage of convenience with Russia was an enormous mistake.”

The result has been “a massacre, a slaughter in the middle of Europe…a full-scale war using totalitarian methods of intimidating and murdering civilians”, said Morawiecki.

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The best way to stop this is to ensure that Russia “pays the highest price” for its actions, said the Polish premier. “Freeze the assets of the Russian state completely, confiscate them, freeze the assets of the Russian oligarchs.”

Those assets should then be used to create a fund for “the reconstruction of a sovereign, independent Ukraine”, added Morawiecki, quoted by the Polish Press Agency (PAP). His remarks were echoed by Shmyhal and Šimonytė.

“We should not have any illusions,” said the Lithuanian prime minister. “This war that is taking place in Ukraine is a fight for us all. Democratic countries should unite.”

The heads of the Lithuanian and Polish governments also reiterated their countries’ support for Ukraine’s path towards European Union membership.

“No country has paid as high a price [as Ukraine] for their natural desire to be part of the European family,” said Šimonytė, quoted by PAP. “That is why we believe Ukraine deserves candidate status; this is our moral debt to the people of Ukraine.”

Shmyhal thanked Poland and Lithuania for their support on this issue, saying that Ukraine is fighting not only to “defend the independence and freedom of our country, we are also defending ourselves as part of the common family of European civilisation”.

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The Ukrainian prime minister called for “Russia to be recognised as a terrorist state”, with all its assets frozen. He also repeated Kyiv’s calls for a no-fly zone to be imposed in Ukrainian airspace, an idea NATO has repeatedly rejected for fear of escalating the conflict with Russia.

After the summit, Morawiecki noted Russia’s missile attack yesterday on a military training base on Ukraine around 20 kilometres from the Polish border. This “shows how Russia operates”. It “wants to create panic among the civilian population”.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has long warned that Russia poses a threat not only to neighbouring former-Soviet states, but to Europe as a whole. As well as seeking to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank militarily, it has long called for western countries to make themselves more independent of Russian fossil fuels.

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Main image credit: Krystian Maj/KPRM

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