No sign of Ukrainian mass grave: archeologists

No signs of a mass grave have been discovered by archeological works commissioned by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) to disprove statements by Kiev that a monument deconstructed in 2017 in eastern Poland had been erected atop a mass grave of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) soldiers.

Ukrainian authorities argue that the site is to be considered a place of remembrance protected by international law, and all monuments upon the site should therefore remain in place.

The excavation was concluded with IPN tweeting that “single, civil graves of 16 people including women and children were revealed.”

The Institute added that: “archeological and medical research gave no base for recognition of mass or single graves of UPA soldiers buried under the deconstructed monument.”

An official statement is set to be released on Monday.

UPA was a Ukrainian militant organization during WWII. It is notorious for the role some of its soldiers had in the ethnic cleansing known as the Volhynian massacre of 40,000-60,000 Poles in Volhynia and 30,000-40,000 in Eastern Galicia.

IPN deputy Director, Krzysztof Szwagrzyk, was tasked with “rectifying this sensitive situation,” of the monument. The Ukrainian government has termed the deconstruction of a monument commemorating UPA “an instance of constant violation of international law by Poland and a token of ‘barbarism’”.

“We hope that our work will prove them wrong,” Mr Szwagrzyk has said.

Authorities have said that the monument in Hruszowice, southeastern Poland, was illegally constructed in 1994 by a UPA veteran. The memorial was vandalized several times over the years, finally being taken down on April 26, 2017.

As a form of retaliation, Kiev has banned any archeological work to look for the remains of Polish WWII victims on Ukrainian soil.

The excavations in Hruszowice were observed by five Ukrainian specialists headed by the Secretary of the Interdepartamental Remembrance Commission, Svyatoslav Sheremeta.

“The issue of Hruszowice has become a litmus paper of Polish-Ukrainian relations,” said Tadeusz Płużański – a historian specializing in WWII, adding that the archeological findings “may, perhaps, contribute to a breakthrough” in the painful Polish-Ukrainian stalemate.