Russia has accused Poland of provoking the outbreak of the Second World War by refusing to accede to the "very modest" demands of Nazi Germany.
By Adrian Blomfield in St Petersburg
Published: 4:58PM BST 04 Jun 2009
The Russian defence ministry posted a potentially inflammatory essay on its website which claimed Poland resisted Germany's ultimatums in 1939 only because it "wanted to obtain the status of a great power".
The lengthy diatribe, which is unlikely to be welcomed in Warsaw, also lashed out at Britain and France for giving the Poles "delusions of grandeur" by promising to intercede if the Nazis invaded.
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"Anyone who has been minded to study the history of the Second World War knows it started because of Poland's refusal to meet Germany's requests," the statement read. "The German demands were very modest. You could hardly call them unfounded."
Appearing to take Germany's demands at face value, the defence ministry insisted that the Nazis were interested only in building transport links across the Polish Corridor to East Prussia and assuming control of Gdansk, which had been designated as a free city at the time.
Western historians largely recognise that Poland would have lost its independence had it acceded to the demands, pointing to Hitler's policies of Lebensbraum and the creation of a Greater Germany as evidence.
Germany invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939, prompting the British Empire and France to declare war over the next two days. Germany and the Soviet Union then carved up Poland under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
The statement, written by Col Sergei Kovalev, a senior researcher at the defence ministry, appears to be part of a new Kremlin campaign to push its view of Soviet era history.
Polandís foreign ministry said it would summon Russiaís ambassador to Warsaw to demand an explanation, as the allegations showed signs of triggering a major row between the two countries.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, last month created a commission to identify foreign "revisionists" who disparage the country's prestige and "falsify" its history.
Col Kovalev's paper, which appears under a section titled History: Lies and Falsifications, claims that British support for Warsaw caused Poland to "lose all sense of reality."
It also attacked the Western press for suggesting that the Soviet Union carried some blame for the War by its alliance with Hitler under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved up Europe into two spheres of influence to be headed by Hitler and Stalin.
"No representative of a Western democracy has the right to discuss any treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany," given that Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement of 1938 giving Germany control of the Sudetenland.
As for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Col Kovalev wrote, it was merely a time-buying mechanism after Britain refused to sign a mutual defence treaty with the Soviet Union.
Under the pact the Soviet Union took control of two-thirds of Poland as well as the Baltic states, but only, he wrote, in order to create a buffer zone that would allow Moscow to marshal its defences ahead of an inevitable war with the Third Reich.
Under planned legislation, backed by Mr Medvedev, any Russian or foreigner who claims that the Soviet Union occupied Poland or the Baltic States could face up to five years in prison.