Poland's top leaders have led a march to mark the 100th anniversary of the country's rebirth as an independent state. The march took place at the same time and along the same route as an annual far-right rally.
Some 200,000 people marched through Warsaw on Sunday to commemorate a century of independence despite fears that the occasion could be disrupted by far-right groups.
Those marching mostly waved the national white-and-red flag. But emblems could also be seen belonging to the National Radical Camp (ONR), a radical movement behind an opposing rally which took the same path.
Polish authorities beefed up security in case of a possible standoff, after last year's far-right rally drew global condemnation for its use of explicitly racist and anti-immigrant banners and slogans. Previous far-right rallies on Independence Day have turned violent.
President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the powerful leader of the conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, marched in a group led by soldiers with a large flag bearing the words "For You Poland."
As the Polish president spoke at the start of the march, he was at times obscured by the heavy smoke from flares set off by ONR supporters.
Despite their apparent distance from the alternative rally, the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) government is regularly criticized for tacitly supporting groups with roots in the fascist and anti-Semitic movements.
Far-right groups refuse to back down
The PiS government held talks with far-right groups on Friday to reschedule the two events, but it was later confirmed that the two would coincide.
Duda said Wednesday the state military parade had legal priority.
Far-right groups, however, refused to back down after a court in Warsaw overturned a separate ban imposed by the capital's mayor citing the risk of a clash and hate speech.
"There is a clear red line between patriotic behavior and nationalistic or chauvinistic (behavior) [and] neo-Nazis," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told media Thursday, vowing that authorities would act against those who would display fascist symbols at the Sunday rally.
Tense ties with the EU
Ties between Poland and the European Union have deteriorated since the PiS took office in 2015.
European Council President Donald Tusk on Saturday criticized the PiS-led government for repeatedly clashing with the EU and likened them to "contemporary Bolsheviks" who threaten the country's independence.
ap, mm, shs/amp (AFP, AP, Reuters)