The Russian ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, was doused with red paint on Monday as he attempted to lay flowers at a cemetery for Soviet soldiers.
Andreev was part of a group commemorating “Victory Day,” a prominent Russian national holiday. This year celebrated the 77th anniversary of the defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in WWII. It is a solemn celebration in Russia as the nation honors the 27 million Soviets who died fighting the Axis Powers during the war.
However, the ambassador and his entourage were quickly encircled by hundreds of activists protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A protester threw red paint from behind Andreev, and another beside him threw what was apparently a balloon filled with paint.
Demonstrators at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw carried Ukrainian flags and chanted “fascists” and “murderers” at the diplomat. Some wore white sheets splattered with red to symbolize Ukrainian victims of the Russian invasion.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau called the attack “highly deplorable” and said diplomats are afforded “special protection” no matter the actions of their home governments.
Reaction from Moscow was also swift. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the nation will not be afraid and that Europeans “should be scared to see their reflections in the mirror.” She noted the removal of monuments in Poland to Soviet WWII heroes and likened it to the rebirth of fascism.
International observers speculate that Russia could recall Andreev to Moscow and expel Poland’s ambassador. Reaction in Poland was mixed. Former Interior Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz said he did not understand why the Russian diplomat was not given a larger security detail for the controversial visit.
However, current Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said many Poles view the recognition of “Victory Day” by Andreev as “provocative.”
The Russian ambassador originally wanted to hold a march through Warsaw, but local officials were united in opposition.
The bedrock of diplomatic relationships is that personnel have a special status that removes them from official and even legal ramifications of acts by their home countries. And Poland fell short of what is expected of a European nation.