Twists and turns in Polish-Russian relations

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April 7, 2011, 8:06 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters

Poland marks the first anniversary on Sunday of the plane crash in Russia that killed its president, Lech Kaczynski.


April 7 (Reuters) - Poland marks the first anniversary on Sunday of the plane crash in Russia that killed its president, Lech Kaczynski, and many other top officials. Below are important developments in Polish-Russian relations over the last 20 years. For story click on

1989 - Poland becomes first Soviet satellite to overthrow communism, triggering collapse of Soviet bloc and disintegration of the communist Soviet Union, dominated by Russia.

1992 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin releases secret clauses of 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union that showed they agreed to carve up Poland at outbreak of World War Two. Two weeks after Hitler unleashed his Blitzkrieg on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and Britain and France declared war on Germany, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.

- Yeltsin also gives Poland documents showing Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered execution of Poles at Katyn forest in western Soviet Union.

1993 - Yeltsin visits Poland and is feted by hero of the Polish anti-communist struggle, President Lech Walesa. Walesa obtains Yeltsin's declaration that Russia will not object to Polish NATO entry, which caused outcry in Moscow. Kremlin backtracks and launches campaign to warn the alliance against accepting its former satellites.

- The last Russian soldiers stationed on Polish soil since World War Two leave.

1999 - NATO admits Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic.

2004 - Poland joins European Union. President Aleksander Kwasniewski meets Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Ties strained over Polish reluctance to allow Russian energy companies buy Polish peers.

- Kwasniewski infuriates Putin by leading EU mediation in Ukraine after rigged presidential election there in December 2004. A rerun produces victory for pro-Western candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

2005 - Conservative Law and Justice party, led by nationalist brothers Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski wins power in Poland, taking a sharply anti-Russian course. Moscow imposes ban on Polish farm imports.

- Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and its German partners agree to build an undersea gas pipeline bypassing Poland. Radoslaw Sikorski, then defence minister, now foreign minister, compares the agreement to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

2007 - Poland declares it is ready to host U.S. missile defence system, sparking furious reaction from Putin.

- In May, Poland blocks talks on new EU-Russia strategic partnership over the meat ban.

- In October, centre-right Civic Platform party wins parliamentary election, with its leader and future prime minister Donald Tusk promising to improve ties with Russia.

- In November, Poland lifts veto on Russia's talks to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Russia reciprocates by lifting ban on Polish meat imports.

2008 - Sikorski meets Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in January. Lavrov says Moscow will not put pressure on Warsaw over its readiness to host U.S. missile shield.

2010 - President Lech Kaczynski criticises centre-right government in January for prolonging gas negotiations with Russia and deepening Poland's already-heavy reliance on Russian gas.

- In February, Poland approves long-delayed gas deal with Russia ensuring higher deliveries until 2037, with the settlement still awaiting a final rubber stamp. Poland imports about 65-70 percent of the 14 billion cubic metres of its annual gas consumption from Russia.

- On April 10, Polish President Kaczynski, his wife and 94 officials die in plane crash on their way to ceremony in Russia's Katyn forest marking 70th anniversary of the killings. Relations between the neighbours improve.

- In September, Poland tells Russia it is dissatisfied with its crash investigation, in the first public sign of new tension between Warsaw and Moscow.

- In November Russia approves resolution that directly blamed Stalin for 1940 Katyn massacre, a vote widely seen as attempt by Moscow to mend relations with Poland.

March 2011 - Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski defends government efforts to improve relations with Russia, an increasingly important trade partner, against opposition assertions that the "reset" betrays national interests.

- Centrist government had come under fire earlier in 2011 from main right-wing opposition party for its mild response to the Russian report into the causes of last April's plane crash.

- The report angered many Poles by putting all the blame for crash on Polish pilots and denying that Russian ground control staff bore any responsibility.

- Sikorski says improving economic ties is good for both Russia and Poland, adding that preliminary data show bilateral trade stands at $24 billion in 2010, up 40 percent from the previous year. Poland is due to publish its own report into the Smolensk plane crash this spring.
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