Fact Check

Putin Says Poland Wants To 'Regain' Western Ukraine?

"Did I wake up and the USSR is back?" one X user asked.

Published Sep 19, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
In July 2023, Vladimir Putin said that Poland wants to "regain" western Ukraine.
Context

Although Putin claimed that Poland wanted to "regain western territories of Ukraine," that accusation was unsubstantiated and has never been been confirmed by any actions or declarations of Polish authorities.

In September 2023, a video was shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, by the @MyLordBebo account, allegedly showing Putin claiming that "Poland wants to form a coalition and get back western Ukraine."

The same video was published on TikTok and Telegram profiles with the same user names. The account's description on Telegram read "Against wokeness, hypocrisy, fake news and corruption," and its publications included anti-Ukrainian statements. For instance, one of the posts published by @myLordBebo on Telegram claimed that Zelenskyy "directly benefits from poor folks dying and his career would suffer from peace."

The text visible in the in-question video indicated that it was captured in Moscow, on July 21, but did not specify a year. Looking for the source of the footage, we found a Reuters article from July 22, 2023, that read:

Warsaw's Security Committee decided on Wednesday to move military units to eastern Poland after members of the Russian Wagner mercenary force arrived in Belarus, the state-run news agency PAP quoted its secretary as saying on Friday.

Poland denies any territorial ambitions in Belarus.

In his remarks Putin had also stated that the western part of Poland was a gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the country and that Russia would remind Poles about it.

Moreover, we found an article in English published on an official Kremlin website regarding the "meeting with permanent members of the Security Council" that took place on July 21, 2023. It included a transcription of the meeting, which proved that in fact, Putin accused Poland of plans to regain Ukrainian western territories with the help of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (emphasis ours).

As for the Polish leaders, they probably hope to form a coalition under the NATO umbrella in order to directly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine and to bite off as much as possible, to "regain," as they see it, their historical territories, that is, modern-day Western Ukraine. It is also common knowledge that they dream about Belarusian land.

Moreover, the article accused Poland of starting World War II:

I would also like to remind you what Poland's aggressive policy led to. It led to the national tragedy of 1939, when Poland's Western allies threw it to the German wolf, the German miliary machine. Poland actually lost its independence and statehood, which were only restored thanks in a large measure to the Soviet Union. It was also thanks to the Soviet Union and thanks to Stalin's position that Poland acquired substantial territory in the west, German territory. It is a fact that Poland's western lands are a gift from Stalin.

The same article was also published on the Russian version of the Kremlin's website, which included a video recording of Putin's words. The in-question fragments started about 12:50 in the footage shared by Kremlin, proving that the video shared on social media was authentic and Putin did say that, among other things, Polish leaders wanted to form a "coalition under the NATO umbrella in order to directly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine." The Russian president's claims about Poland's plans to attack Ukraine were unsupported by evidence, and Poland has denied having any interest in Ukrainian territories. It appears to be yet another attempt by Russia to spread false information about Poland. 

Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, commented on Putin's words on X, underscoring that he "seems to have forgotten what Stalin did to Poland previously."

The Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW, Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich), a Polish think tank that undertakes independent research on the political, economic and social situation in, among other regions, Central and Eastern Europe, published an article on July 24, 2023, with the title "Russia and Belarus accuse Poland of preparing aggressive plans." According to the OSW, the heightened anti-Polish rhetoric from the Kremlin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka is a psychological warfare escalation, aiming to create internal strife in Poland ahead of its parliamentary elections in October 2023. Moscow's objective is to weaken the trust of Western allies in Warsaw and challenge Poland's defense strategy. Moreover, says the OSW, the Russian narrative is designed to sow distrust between Poland and Ukraine, suggesting Poland has imperialistic ambitions.

Sources

"Meeting with Permanent Members of the Security Council." President of Russia, 21 July 2023, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/71714.

"Putin Tells Poland Any Aggression against Belarus Is Attack on Russia." Reuters, 22 July 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-tells-poland-any-aggression-against-belarus-is-attack-russia-2023-07-21/.

"Совещание с постоянными членами Совета Безопасности." Президент России, 21 July 2023, http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/71714.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.