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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tensions Flare Over Auschwitz Museum

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized the Polish curators of the Auschwitz museum for delaying the opening of an exhibit over the identity of the camp's victims.

The directors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum near Oswiecim, Poland, are insisting that those killed at the Nazi death camp be referred to as Polish, not Soviet, citizens in the exhibit, which is dedicated to Soviet liberation of thousands of the camp's prisoners.

The spat comes in the wake of several recent diplomatic confrontations between Russia and Poland, and the ministry called the museum's decision to keep the exhibit closed "absurd."

"We are convinced that the memory of the victims ... should not be held hostage by historical-political speculation," the ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.

The exhibit has been closed since 2003 and will not be reopened until an agreement is reached with Russian officials over the identity of the camp's victims, museum spokesman Jarek Mensfeld said by telephone Tuesday.

Museum officials object to Russia's insistence that prisoners who came from areas of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union be referred to as Soviet citizens, Mensfeld said.

"It should be pointed out that just because parts of Poland were controlled by Soviet forces does not mean those who perished were any less Polish," he said.

Some of the Polish territory seized by Soviet troops in accordance with the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact went on to become parts of Belarus and western parts of Ukraine.

The exhibit, a collection of photographs, plaques and artifacts in the museum's Block No. 14, is dedicated to the role of Soviet troops in liberating some 7,500 prisoners from the camp in January 1945. At the camp, the Nazis murdered around 1.5 million people, mainly Jews, starting in 1940.

The spat comes in the wake of several diplomatic disputes between Russia and Poland in recent years, and one senior senator on Tuesday promised to take the issue to the Council of Europe.

"I hope this is not an attempt by Polish authorities to carry out politics on the dead bones of the victims," said Mikhail Margelov, the head of the Federation