Putin visit to Poland seen as symbolic

June 27, 2009 at 12:51 PM

WARSAW, Poland, June 27 (UPI) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's attendance at an observance of the start of World War II in Poland would hold symbolism for Poles, Polish officials say.

Poles have long held that World War II started Sept. 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Gdansk, Poland. The 70th anniversary of the attack will be held in the city and is to be attended by Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But Russian authorities have never recognized the date as the beginning of the worldwide conflict, Russia's Interfax news agency reported Saturday.

"Putin's presence on Sept. 1 would be a breakthrough in our evaluation and re-evaluation of historical events," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. "A meeting between the Russian prime minister and the chancellor of Germany on Sept. 1 would be a symbolic confirmation of the fact that the war started with Germany's invasion of Poland, namely Gdansk, and that it actually ended in Gdansk as well."

Tusk told Interfax the distinction is important because "this is our perception and interpretation of history. But symbolism of this would be important for the entire European Union and all of Russia."

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