VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s president will not attend a Holocaust forum in Israel which is being boycotted by his Polish counterpart amid a row with Russia over Poland’s role in World War II.
Polish President Andrzej Duda backed out from Thursday’s event after being denied the chance to make a speech.
He would thus not have an opportunity to respond should Russian President Vladimir Putin use his keynote speech to again level accusations that Poland had colluded with Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler and contributed to the outbreak of World War II.
The forum at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center will mark 75 years since the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, an enduring symbol of the Holocaust where the Nazis killed more than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda “has requested that the parliament speaker represent Lithuania in Jerusalem,” Nauseda’s spokesman Antanas Bubnelis told AFP on Tuesday. He did not give a reason for the last-minute cancellation.
Nauseda will instead go to an official ceremony marking the anniversary on January 27 at the site of the former death camp in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, Bubnelis said.
A source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that Nauseda decided to cancel because Putin is being allowed to speak but not Duda.
Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, also has fraught relations with Russia over World War II and Communist-era history.
Lithuania has joined Poland in condemning Putin for playing down the secret Nazi-Soviet pact which carved up Eastern Europe at the outbreak of World War II.
Putin and other senior Russian officials have recently said that Poland was partly responsible for the war’s outbreak, a claim rejected by Warsaw and its Western allies as false revisionism.