Spate of revenge beatings put strain on Polish/Russian relations

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The Independent Online

The attacks are thought to be revenge for an assault on three Russian teenagers in a Warsaw park at the end of July, an event which saw 15 Polish skinheads viciously beat the trio and steal their mobile phones.

The three teenagers were children of Russian diplomats and Moscow claimed their attackers shouted anti-Russian slogans. Russia blamed Polish politicians for voicing anti-Russian sentiment too frequently and vocally. Unusually, the attack attracted the attention of President Vladimir Putin who said it was "an unfriendly act that cannot be characterised as anything other than a crime". Russian nationalists' response has been less measured.

Three Polish nationals have been beaten on Moscow's streets in the past week and the embassy pelted with rotten tomatoes and paint. The first victim was Marek Reszuta, a second secretary at the embassy, the second was Andrzej Uriadko, a technical worker at the embassy, the third victim was Pawel Reszka, a Polish journalist.

In all three cases the scenario was the same. A group of five or six well-built men hit the victim on the head knocking him to the ground before kicking and punching him. All three attacks were unprovoked and often began with an apparently innocent request for a cigarette.

All three were so badly beaten that they were admitted to hospital. Yesterday, Poland's President, Alexander Kwasniewski, appealed to Mr Putin to put an end to the "well-planned" attacks and protect Polish nationals because relations between the two countries, never the best of friends, were slipping towards the abyss.

"The attacks seem to be organised and directed towards accredited representatives of the Polish diplomatic mission and media," Mr Kwasniewski said. "These dangerous incidents have increased tensions in Polish-Russian relations and escalated feelings of enmity."

Russia has expressed its "deep regret" over the attacks and vowed to do everything in its power to find and punish the gang.

Russian-supplied security at the Polish embassy has been substantially beefed up. Ordinary Russians appear to have little sympathy with the attackers.

A poll on Ekho Moskvy radio station yesterday found that 75 per cent of respondents felt "shame" that the Poles were being targeted for punishment beatings by Russians.