Poland independence: Huge crowds march amid far-right row

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A masked participant holds up a flare prior to the planned March of Independence to mark the 100th anniversary of the reinstatement of Polish independence in Warsaw, 11 November 2018Image source, Getty Images
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Annual celebrations have become a magnet for the far right

Huge crowds have been celebrating the centenary of Poland's independence, amid controversy over a decision to include far-right groups.

Nationalists were among more than 200,000 people taking part in a march in the capital, Warsaw, which was led by President Andrzej Duda.

Opposition parties boycotted the event.

It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron urged world leaders marking the centenary of the World War One Armistice to reject nationalism.

Poland's National Independence Day commemorates the restoration of the country's sovereignty from the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires in 1918.

Most participants in Sunday's march in Warsaw were seen carrying Polish flags and wearing red-and-white armbands, but some were holding banners representing far-right parties from Poland and Italy.

Many of those attending the march brought red flares that filled the streets with smoke.

Image source, Reuters
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Red flares filled the streets of Warsaw with smoke

President Duda had said he wanted the march to be a proud and joyful celebration and warned that anyone carrying offensive banners or chanting the types of slogans heard at last year's event - such as "Pure Poland, white Poland" - would be dealt with by the police.

Sunday's events were said to have been peaceful and there were no reports of offensive banners or chanting.

Image source, Reuters
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President Duda, who led events on Sunday, earlier warned people not to bring offensive banners

Last week, a Polish court overturned a ban on nationalists marching in Warsaw.

"We're victorious," said the organisers of the annual event, which is partly organised by the far-right National Radical Camp (ONR) and has been marked by violence in recent years.

The march is also popular with thousands of ordinary, patriotic Poles, including supporters of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. An estimated 60,000 people took part in the event last year.

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These were the scenes in 2017 when a nationalist march and counter-protest took place in Warsaw

"By saying 'our interests first and never mind the others' you stamp out the most precious thing a nation has - its moral values," he said.