For years now, the Russian government and other Kremlin-affiliated actors have been amplifying the narrative that Poland is planning to annex western Ukraine. This narrative has been especially fueled since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, after Poland declared its full support for Ukraine. The Kremlin is trying to convey the idea that Poland is using the war for its own purposes, and in exchange for Ukraine’s help, it is actually “requesting” the territories of Western Ukraine, which were part of the Second Republic of Poland.
Along with various other narratives, the Polish pro-Russian outlet Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny, in an article published on December 16, 2022, even named the alleged dates of annexation, according to which, the “liberation march” on Kyiv was supposed to begin on May 4, 2023. The referendum was said to be “planned” for July 11. The alleged plan concerns the alleged “seizure” of five regions of Western Ukraine – Volyn, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil and Rivne.
Since the emergence of the full-scale invasion, “Myth Detector” prepared a number of articles on this topic, revealing six key disinformation narratives about the alleged annexation of Ukraine by Poland.
- Poland is planning to share Ukraine with Russia, Hungary and Romania;
- Poland is planning to deploy troops in Kyiv;
- The Polish government no longer hides its intention to annex Ukraine – “The Confession of Andrzej Duda;”
- Zelenskyy promised the President of Poland the lands of Western Ukraine in exchange for certain assistance and guarantees;
- The law on granting special status to Poles living in Ukraine threatens the sovereignty of Ukraine;
- Poland has planned a referendum for the annexation of Lviv;
Poland is planning to share Ukraine with Russia, Hungary and Romania – The Maps
In March 2022, a map in which Ukraine was divided between several countries – Poland, Russia, Romania and Hungary – was circulated on social networks and Kremlin media. According to the descriptions, the map was broadcast on a Polish TV channel and was presented as a plan for the partition of Ukraine by Poland. As a result of the verification, Myth Detector revealed that the map was from the story aired by the Polish Public Broadcaster on March 24, 2014, which was about Vladimir Zhirinovsky to the Polish Foreign Ministry. Zhirinovsky offered Poland to participate in the redistribution of Ukraine, and the map was also used to visualize this redistribution.
Zhirinovsky voiced an identical statement in his March 2014 speech to the Russian Duma.
“I think it is time not only to return Russian lands under the Russian flag but also to return the territory of western Ukraine to Poland, Hungary and Romania,” – said Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
For more on the topic, see:
Another map was circulated as evidence of Poland’s alleged plan to annex western Ukraine in January 2023, which Russian media reported appeared in a weather forecast by the Polish Public Broadcaster (TVP 1). According to the Russian media, the weather forecast of the Polish public broadcaster (TVP 1), the Lviv region was included in the territory of Poland. The articles are accompanied by a shot with the logo of TVP 1, showing a map of Poland and a weather forecast. As a result of the verification, Myth Detector revealed that the circulated shot is a photo fabrication, and it was not broadcast on the Polish Public Broadcaster: 1. the anchor depicted in the shot is not the journalist of the Polish Public Broadcaster but the journalist of the “Radio Maria” – Joanna Wysocka. Her photo is manually added to the frame. 2. Polish names of cities and countries on the map are misspelled. 3. The graphic design of the weather forecast of the Polish public broadcaster is different from the given one, and only the territory that officially belongs to Poland is marked on it.
For more information, see:
- Kremlin Media Fabricates Yet another Map in the Name of the Polish Public Broadcaster
Poland is planning to deploy troops in Kyiv;
In addition to the mentioned map, in March 2022, a number of sources claimed that Poland wanted to involve NATO in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and then, using the situation, to annex Western Ukraine. This assertion was followed by the initiative voiced by Polish vice Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, which entailed the introduction of a NATO peacekeeping mission into the territory of Ukraine.
The initiative was announced by Polish vice Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński in Kyiv on March 16, but NATO members did not support it at the extraordinary meeting of the alliance held on March 24.
Kaczyński’s initiative was soon followed by interpretations. On March 16, one of Kaczynski’s advisers explained that the initiative did not mean NATO’s military intervention in Ukraine.
“The position remains unchanged. Neither Poland nor NATO are planning to take part in the world.” Told Michał Dworczyk to the Polish radio.
On March 17, a statement was published on the website of the Polish government, stating that the information that Poland allegedly had claims on western Ukraine was part of the Kremlin’s disinformation propaganda.
For more information on the topic, see:
- NATO Peacekeeping Mission or Annexing Western Ukraine? Disinformation about Poland’s Plans on Ukraine
Disinformation of Yaakov Kedmi about the alleged plan of Poland to Deploy Troops in Ukraine
Kremlin propagandist political scientist Yaakov Kedmi has also disseminated a similar disinformation in 2022, noting that Poland plans to send two brigades into Western Ukraine in August and take control of the western regions, while units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which were stationed would be transferred to the front line in Donbas. Kedmi claimed that the information was obtained from the Polish intelligence service. It should be noted that neither in August 2022 nor after, the information about the introduction of troops into Ukraine by Poland was never confirmed
For more on the topic, see:
Political scientist Yaakov Kedmi appears in the “Putin List” prepared by Free Russia as a person who cooperates with Putin’s regime and is involved in the propaganda of Russian TV channels. Since the beginning of the 2010s, Kedmi has become a frequent guest of Russian TV channels, especially Россия 1 and ITON.TV.
Kedmi regularly criticizes Ukraine and constantly accuses it of anti-Semitism and collaboration with Nazism. In addition, Kedmi also justifies Russia’s actions in Syria.
For more details on Yaakov Kedmi, see the article of “Myth Detector:”
- ALT-TV’s Russian Line: Guests from “Putin’s List”
Polish Ministry of Defense Invites Volunteers to the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Corps
In April 2023, another disinformation was disseminated about the alleged Polish intervention in Ukraine, as if a Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian military corps was being created and it would take part in combat operations in Ukraine. On this topic, a fake text message was circulated on behalf of the Polish Ministry of Defense, as if they were inviting Polish citizens to join this military corps. On April 18, the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade denied the mentioned information on its Facebook and Twitter pages. This unit has been in existence since the fall of 2015 and is currently not recruiting volunteers.
For more on the topic, see:
- Does the Polish Ministry of Defense Invite Volunteers to the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Corps?
The Polish government no longer hides its intention to annex Ukraine – “The Confession of Andrzej Duda;”
On May 3, 2022, at the event related to the 231st anniversary of the adoption of the Polish Constitution, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, also spoke about Ukraine. On the same day, a short fragment of Duda’s speech was published in the Russian propaganda media, in which he says that there will no longer be a border between Poland and Ukraine. This fragment was presented in the Russian-language media as “Poland’s plan” for the return of the territories of Western Ukraine.
The full text of the speech makes it clear that Duda talks about the friendship between Poland and Ukraine and expresses the hope that Ukrainians will return to their homes after the end of the war. He did not say anything about the unification of Poland and Ukraine. Also, in his speech, he repeatedly mentioned Ukraine as a sovereign and independent state. Duda recalled the statement of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that the history of the relationship between Ukraine and Poland has a special development, and in the background of the unification of the countries, “historical issues seem insignificant.”
Andrzej Duda: “I deeply believe that we will succeed. That just as we were able to welcome our neighbors, we will be able to shelter them so that – when the war is over – they can return to their homes, and we will help them in the work of rebuilding Ukraine: free, sovereign, independent. Ukraine, which – I hope – will be for decades, and God willing, for centuries, a brotherly state for the Republic of Poland, between which and us, Poland – as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, I hope, prophetically said – there will be no border; that there will actually be no border; that we will live together on this earth, rebuilding and building our common happiness and common strength that will allow us to resist any danger, and which everyone will be afraid to attack in the future and will be afraid to threaten it.”
The video and the full text of the President’s speech are available on the website of the President’s Administration.
For more on the topic, see:
- What did Andrzej Duda say about the Ukrainian-Polish border and how does Kremlin propaganda manipulate his words? (in Georgian)
The law on granting special status to Poles living in Ukraine threatens the sovereignty of Ukraine
In the past, it was also claimed that Ukraine was losing its sovereignty with the law on Polish citizens in Ukraine. This information was spread to support the narrative according to which Zelenskyy will hand over Ukrainian territories to Poland himself.
In fact, on May 22nd, 2022, during the visit of Polish President Andrzej Duda to Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a draft law, according to which Polish citizens living in Ukraine would be granted a special status. The initiative was adopted in response to a law passed by Poland on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict. The draft law immediately became the subject of speculation in Russian publications. This project was discussed in the Rada of Ukraine on July 28th and supported by 283 MPs. On August 15th, the President of Ukraine signed the law, and it entered into force on September 16th.
According to the law, Polish citizens have the privilege of staying legally on the territory of Ukraine for 18 months and enjoying the same rights as Ukrainian citizens. The law includes Employment without additional permission (including scientific-pedagogical and medical workers); conducting business activities on the territory of Ukraine with the same rights as citizens of Ukraine; Social benefits, including disability, unemployment, disability, etc. Free education and scholarships; Medical assistance with the same rights as Ukrainians; Registering as a taxpayer and obtaining the registration number of the taxpayer’s registration card.
The law does not mention the issue of the right to vote nor the surrender of Ukraine’s sovereignty
For more on the topic, see:
Referendum for the annexation of Lviv and the dates of the annexation of Western Ukraine
On November 30th, 2022, Kremlin propaganda media РИА Новости published an interview with the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin, in which he stated that Poland wants to seize Western Ukraine and decided to use “Russia’s successful experience of holding a referendum” to legitimize this goal.
According to Naryshkin, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, instructed the relevant agencies to promptly prepare an official justification of Warsaw’s claims to the lands of Western Ukraine.
Official Warsaw has never voiced territorial claims over Ukraine. The Constitution of Ukraine mentions that the issue of territorial change takes place through a national referendum and not at the regional level. As for the law that grants special rights to Polish citizens in Ukraine, it entered into force on September 16th, and it does not call into question the issue of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
In September 2022, in connection with the Lviv referendum, visual manipulation was also disseminated. The information was accompanied by a photo of the election ballot, which seemed to have the name of the Polish Election Commission on it. A representative of the Polish National Election Commission confirmed that the ballot was falsified.
According to the article of the pro-Russian Polish-language online edition – Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny, the referendum is planned for July 11, 2023 in Lviv. The said claim is not based on any factual evidence. The coordinator of the special services of the Polish government, Stanislaw Zharin, issued a number of statements, in which he called the Kremlin’s propaganda an attempt to present Poland as an annexer of Ukraine, to incite strife between the states and to ignore Poland’s aid.
For more on the topic, see:
What do we know about the Polish media that the Kremlin relies on?
Notably, Kremlin propaganda often relies on the Polish-language pro-Russian media when spreading disinformation about Poland, and in this way tries to legitimize its accusations. Kremlin media most often publishes articles from Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny and Myśl Polska.
Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny
Polish online outlet Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny is a pro-Russian publication.
Adam Kamiński is named as the editor-in-chief of the publication. In 2017, the Polish media – OKO.press published an article, arguing that the editor-in-chief of Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny Adam Kamiński does not exist and is a troll. The publication studied Kamiński’s Facebook account. He introduced himself as a graduate of Warsaw High School and Warsaw University. In fact, he has a photo of a Lithuanian doctor on his profile picture. According to OKO.press, they tried to interview Kaminski via Skype, but he refused. The publication also contacted his Facebook friends. No one has seen him personally.
In addition to Adam Kamiński, Wojciech Brozek is listed as one of the editors of the publication. According to OKO.press, his Facebook account is also a troll and actually steals a photo of an American economist.
OKO.press also writes that Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny (NDP) often copies the content of reliable Polish media, and the materials published directly by the publication’s editors are written in incorrect Polish. The publication OKO.press suggests that Russian authors are behind this outlet.
The magazine Niezależny Dziennik Polityczny (NDP) has been operating since 2014. The publication has repeatedly become a source of disinformation, especially on military topics. Since the start of the war, the NDP has produced a number of articles claiming that Poland is planning to annex Western Ukraine. Currently, the Facebook page of the publication has been deleted.
Online publication Myśl Polska publishes articles of pro-Russian and anti-Western content. The publication is particularly critical of the US and the European Union. Jan Engelgard, editor-in-chief of Myśl Polska, works at the Museum of Independence in Warsaw. It is thanks to him that an event in support of the Belarusian government and critical of the US – association – “Patria” conference was held in this museum. Myśl Polska promoted the book “Manifesto of the Great Awakening and Wartime Letters” by Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist and the main Kremlin ideologue.
It is worth noting that after the start of the war, the Polish government blocked the publication’s website, but they started operating with a new domain.
Historical Context – Rzeczpospolita – Which Ukrainian territories were part of Poland?
The Kremlin often manipulates with Poland’s historical memory. Russian politicians and Kremlin actors periodically mention that Poland plans to return the territories of Western Ukraine that were part of the Second Polish Republic.
The Second Polish Republic covers the period between the two world wars. It existed from November 11, 1918 (the end of World War I) to 1939 (the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union).
As a result of the revolution that started in Berlin on November 11, 1918, Marshal of Poland Józef Piłsudski arrived in Warsaw and announced the independent Republic of Poland. During this period, Poland had no constitution, no army, no government, and no borders. A few months after the declaration of independence, the Republic of Poland found itself in military conflict with all its neighbors. Poland’s border with Germany and Czechoslovakia was determined by the Paris Peace Conference, although Piłsudski entered into armed conflict with these countries as well. Poland faced Germany – for the Poznań region, Upper Silesia and the Danzig Corridor; Czechoslovakia – for Teschen region; Lithuanian-Belarusian Republic – for the Vilno (Vilnius) region; and Galician Ukrainians, who declared the Republic of Western Ukraine in the capital Lviv. In the winter of 1919, the Polish-Soviet Russia war began. By the summer of the same year, Polish military control had spread over the entire western Ukraine. On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles recognized the western border of Poland and gave the country access to the Baltic Sea.
On April 21, 1920, an agreement was signed between Symon Petliura (a member of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Party) and the Polish government, according to which Eastern Galicia (Lviv region) inhabited by Ukrainians remained part of Poland, and Symon Petliura took the “throne” of Kyiv.
Finally, the Polish-Soviet Russian War ended with the signing of the Riga Peace Treaty in March 1921.
The Position of Official Warsaw
Notably, official Warsaw has not expressed any territorial claims over Western Ukraine and constantly supports the sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. The coordinator of the special services of the Polish government – Stanislaw Zharin systematically echoes the disinformation disseminated by Russia. The government’s website often publishes statements about Russia’s attempts to confront Poland and Ukraine.
The latest statement on the Russian disinformation campaign was published by Stanislav Zharin on his Twitter account on May 15, in which it is mentioned that Russia is expanding information operations against Poland, and after the US, Poland is the second country in the West that is the most frequent target of information attacks from Russia.