Poland is seeking the arrest and extradition of a man named as a former commander in a German-backed unit culpable of brutal attacks on Polish villages, Associated Press reports.
Polish prosecutor Robert Janicki confirmed AP’s report four years ago that a U.S. citizen named as Michael K. led the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion under German command, accused of war crimes. Janicki said his office’s evidence confirmed "100 percent" that the man served as commander for the unit.
He did not reveal Michael K’s last name, due to Polish privacy legislation, but the AP named 98-year-old Michael Karkoc from Minneapolis, as the man in question.
"All the pieces of evidence interwoven together allow us to say the person who lives in the U.S. is Michael K., who commanded the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion which carried out the pacification of Polish villages in the Lublin region," Janicki said.
Karkoc's family vehemently denies allegations of war crimes, and called Poland’s statement “scandalous and baseless slanders."
“There's nothing in the historical record that indicates my father had any role whatsoever in any type of war crime activity," said Karkoc’s son, Andriy Karkoc.
Poland’s National Remembrance Institute —the state historical body which archives human rights crimes on Polish soil by the Nazi and Soviet regimes—called for a Lublin court to issue an arrest warrant for Michael Karkoc.
The institute’s Investigative Department seeks the man’s extradition on the suspicion that the unit he commanded killed 44 inhabitants of three Polish villages, Poland’s state news agency PAP reports.
"Michael K. (name withheld) is suspected of committing a crime against humanity which at the same time constitutes a war crime,” the statement from the institute read. “On July 23, 1944, while commanding a Ukrainian company in the service of the Germans, he ordered his subordinate soldiers to kill the inhabitants of the villages of Chlaniów, Chlaniow-Kolonia and Wladyslawin-Kolonia and burn down the buildings in those villages."
Janicki said that if the warrant is granted Warsaw would seek the 98-year-old man’s extradition, since Poland does not allow trial in absentia.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers