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Commemorative events to be held at site of Soviet wartime general’s death in Poland

February 18, 2014, 7:11 UTC+3 WARSAW
The commemoration has sprung into public spotlight due to the local authorities’ plans to dismantle the monument to Gen. Chernyakhovsky
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© pieniezno.pl

WARSAW, February 18. /ITAR-TASS/. A commemorative function will be held near the town of Pieniezno in the north of Poland close to the border with Russia’s Baltic region of Kaliningrad at the site where the illustrious Soviet World War II general Ivan Chernyakhovsky received mortal wounds in 1945.

The commemoration has sprung into public spotlight due to the local authorities’ plans to dismantle the monument to Gen. Chernyakhovsky. A total of seven members of the town hall voted for disassembling the obelisk and the stairs leading up to it, with three members voting against it another two abstaining.

Previously, the voting on the elimination of the memorial was held twice but a shortage of monies prevented an implementation of the initiative in both cases.

Some activists have said this time they could finance the project as they denounce Gen. Chernyakhovsky for the fact he disarmed and arrested the paramilitaries of the Armia Krajowa militia when the Soviet Army regained control over the territories around Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

Pieniezno municipality plans have triggered intensive criticism on the Russian side. Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman recalled in this connection that the monument fell into the domain of a Russian-Polish intergovernmental agreement on the burial sites and the sites of commemoration of the victims of wars and repressions.

He said the document stipulated a duty of the two sides to maintain the commemorative sites and memorials in Russia and Poland in proper order and it did not allow of sporadic uncoordinated actions in this sphere.

Russian embassy in Poland, the Consulate General in Gdansk and the Russian Defense Ministry’s mission in charge of maintenance of military memorials in Poland keep up intense contacts with the authorities of the Warmian-Mazurian Voivodeship and the Polish agencies supervising this activity in a bid to settle the situation in line with the existing legal norms.

In the meantime, the Polish government’s main agency supervising the sphere, the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites, also opposes the idea of maintaining the memorial.

“We believe there are no historically grounded reasons to preserve the monument,” Adam Siwiek, an official at the council told Itar-Tass.

He claimed that the monument to Gen. Chernyakhovsky differs from the monuments falling under the provisions of the Russian-Polish intergovernmental agreement, as “it is devoted to a concrete personality, whose biography contains the facts deplorable for our country, not to the thousands of anonymous soldiers who died on the territory of Poland.”

The monument to Gen. Chernyakhovsky, an illustrious Soviet military commander who was only 37 years old at the time of his death, is not the only one, which the regional authorities in Poland would like to pull down. A total of fourteen such cases are being considered at the moment, Vyacheslav Polovinkin, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s mission for the maintenance of memorials in Poland told Itar-Tass.

“This has turned into a vogue,” he said. “Politicians who are unnoticeable have begun to write petitions, make demands, take decisions, issue and/or process the relevant queries - all of that just to win more public attention.”

“Still, the effective intergovernmental agreements also exist and the Russian side will abide by its stance: it’s not our generations who put up those monuments and we don’t have the right to remove them,” Polovinkin said.

Ivan Chernyakhovsky occupied important commanding positions from the very first days of combat operations on the Eastern front of World War II. He received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for extraordinary organizational achievements during the fording of the River Dnieper in October 1943.

In 1944, when he was just 37 years old, he became the youngest general in the Red Army.

He was Commander of the Third Belorussian Front and the troops taking orders from him were engaged in the Belorussian, Vilnius, Kaunas, Memel, Gumbinnen, and East Prussian operations.

February 18, 1945, he was mortally wounded with the fragments of an artillery shell on the outskirts of the town of the East-Prussian town of Mehlsack, which was later renamed into Peniezno when the area went over to Poland. He died on the same day.

Gen Chernyakhovsky was buried on a central square in Vilnius and reburied in Moscow later.

The monument on near Pieniezno was put up at the beginning of the 1970’s. The place is in disrepair now.

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