The European geographical map will most likely have to be redrawn soon. Polish President Andrzej Duda was in Kiev on 22 May and emphasised his nation’s important support for Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the presentation of a bill on the special status of Polish citizens in Ukraine. Its details are still not entirely clear, but preliminarily it is a significant expansion of the rights and opportunities of Warsaw citizens on the territory of the state. According to rumours, Poles will also be able to hold positions in Ukrainian state institutions.
According to Ukrinform reports Zelensky said about the agreement: ‘We have agreed to implement it in the near future in a respective bilateral agreement. First on joint border and customs control, and then on a single conditional border – when Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union’. Zelensky said he was confident that all necessary decisions would be made first on Ukraine’s candidate status and then on full membership, thanks in part to Poland’s many years of protecting Ukrainian interests on the European continent.
“And I am grateful for your willingness, Andrzej, to visit European capitals together with the President of Slovakia, Zuzana Caputova, to lobby for Ukraine’s EU membership in ‘sceptical’ countries. Actually, they are not sceptics, but future optimists. This is how I see our common task in this area,” said Zelensky, who also thanked the Polish Sejm for the recently passed law on assistance to Ukrainian citizens who left for Poland due to Russian aggression: “This is an unprecedented decision, according to which our citizens forced to move to Poland due to Russian aggression will receive almost the same rights and opportunities as Polish citizens. These are legal residence, employment, education, medical care and social security. This is a big step and a gesture of great spirit, of which only a great friend of Ukraine is capable,’ Zelensky said.
For his part, VisitUkraine reports, Andrzej Duda said: ‘A historic moment is reshaping our relations (…) Now is the time for a new Polish-Ukrainian neighbourhood agreement – one that takes into account everything we have built up in our relations over the past months. The current war has also shown that there is no good network between us. It is time to catch up, the Polish-Ukrainian border must unite, not divide, this must be our big goal’.
Duda went on to note that it would be symbolic to sign such an agreement between Ukraine and Poland by January 2023, on the 160th anniversary of the January Uprising, during which Poles and Ukrainians fought against the rule of the Russian Empire: ‘It is difficult for me to say now whether we will be able to come up with new decisions by this date, but I am sure of one thing: today we are in a completely different situation, and this situation creates a new framework. First of all, it creates a new perspective,’ he emphasised, reports the Ukrainian presidency website.
According to the Russian social sphere, the bill would be a noose around the neck for Kiev: after the visit of the President of Poland to Ukraine, an agreement on the special status of Poland was signed; Poles on the territory of Ukraine receive special rights such as being able to hold elected office; being appointed to public bodies, to top positions in defence companies; gaining access to secret data, being appointed as judges, the Polish police will have the right to control law and order in Ukraine. There was a UPD amendment, and now the law has only been submitted for discussion in parliament, from which a 99% yes vote is expected.
During his speech, Duda reiterated that Ukraine should become a member of the EU. He did not give a specific date. Also via social media we learn that Poles will support Ukraine’s EU membership, limited to that part of the country that will come under Polish control. One account wrote: ‘The special status of Poles and the opportunity to hold de facto various positions in Ukraine means the beginning of the M&A process. You cannot call it integration’.
The Rybar account writes that: “The events that took place are a clear example of Poland’s work to create the ground for the potential deployment of troops in Ukraine. The signed agreements demonstrate the willingness of the authorities in Warsaw to exploit the situation and significantly increase political-military, economic and cultural influence in the western regions of the neighbouring country. With the legal framework ready, nothing will prevent Poland from sending its units directly to Ukraine, leaving them there indefinitely. And systematically integrate Ukrainian lands into its composition’. However, other military analysts in the social sphere wonder whether Warsaw will stop there. Will it remember that Vilnius is also a Polish city? The idea of Commonwealth 2.0 in Poland has been brewing for a long time. And Kresy’s return will also be perceived as a great victory. Returning to the port of origin’.
After Duda’s visit, Zelensky also announced the simplification of the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing: according to his Polish colleague, this ‘will make it possible to repel any threat’. Earlier, the Polish leader had promised that the border between the two states would disappear in the near future.
A reading of the analysts in the social sphere seems to be witnessing the time of New Empires, regional players and tactical alliances. At the moment, pending the vote in the Ukrainian parliament, what is certain is that the agreement as presented by the social sphere envisages Ukraine sharing but receiving nothing concrete in return. Politically, it can be said that Kiev is preparing, so to speak, for a controversial future. On the one hand, Zelensky hints that it will be difficult to return the territories that are now Russia’s. On the other hand, he gives the Poles the right to rule; it is as if he were saying in the social sphere: ‘Come and take care of us’.
Poland is thus, for the Russians, preparing the ground for a potential deployment of troops in western Ukraine.
Graziella Giangiulio and Antonio Albanese