Over 200 bodies found in Russia mass grave: officials

3rd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

More than 200 bodies have been unearthed from a mass grave in Russia's Far East believed to date back to the totalitarian rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, local officials said.

The mass grave was discovered outside the Pacific port city of Vladivostok by workers building a road for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the city government said in a statement.

"Volunteers have discovered more than 10 plots containing sorrowful finds. More than 1.5 tonnes of remains have been extracted. Such a quantity today indicates that more than 200 people were buried here," it said.

The statement did not say whether the dead were victims of Stalin's purges, but investigators cited by the ITAR-TASS news agency said they were either executed by Stalin's secret police or died in transit to prison camps.

Workers building the road stumbled upon the bodies last winter but officials held off on investigating the mass grave until last week as they waited for warmer weather in the region.

Vladivostok, the main city along Russia's Pacific coast, was a major transit point for people being sent into Stalin's brutal Gulag prison system, in which millions perished before the dictator's death in 1953.

The city is set to host the APEC summit in 2012 and Russia is now racing to build infrastructure there ahead of the summit, a major prestige project aimed at showing off the country's Far East, located near China and Japan.

© 2010 AFP

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