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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Polish Visit Sees Praise For MVD

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his host, President Vladimir Putin, did their best Monday to mend fractured relations between the two nations.

Greeting the Polish head of state during a one-day visit to Moscow, Putin emphasized Poland's right to make its own choices.

Kwasniewski showered praise and medals on officers from the Interior Ministry's organized crime unit who had played a role in helping to free two Polish scientists held hostage in Chechnya.

Kwasniewski's first stop on Monday was the Polish Embassy, where he presented awards to officers involved in freeing Zofia Fischer-Malanowska, 66, and Ewa Marchwinska-Wyrwal, 55, who were held in Chechnya for eight months.

The officers showed "high human feelings and preparedness to take risks," Kwasniewski was quoted as saying. He said he was presenting the medals on behalf of the two scientists, their families and "the entire Polish people."

However, the officers had done little directly to free the two scientists. On arrival in Moscow in April, the women said they had been set free by Chechen rebels on Feb. 22 as federal troops moved into the Shatoi region and their captors decided the women were too much of a burden to take on their flight south into the snow-covered mountains.

On March 1, members of the North Caucasus regional anti-organized crime police unit reached the village of Borzoi, where the pair had been sheltering.

Later on Monday, Putin greeted Kwasniewski with some warmth in the gilded halls of the Kremlin.

"Mr. President, we bear great responsibility for the development and deepening of relations between Russia and Poland," Putin told Kwasniewski.

"We proceed from the fact that Poland takes independent decisions in foreign policy, but this does not prevent our fruitful cooperation," Putin said.

Political and economic relations between Poland and Russia deteriorated last year when Poland joined NATO.

Trade between the two countries has likewise suffered. Polish exports to Russia fell 26 percent after Russia's 1998 economic crisis and slid 14.7 percent more last year.