Polish, Russian presidents to meet for massacre memorial

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is to meet Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in April to mark a World War II Soviet massacre of thousands of Poles, Poland's PAP new agency said Thursday.

PAP said the two leaders would meet in Katyn, western Russia, on April 11.

It said it had learned of the plan from sources close to the organiser. Contacted by AFP, Komorowski's office declined to confirm the report.

Komorowski's predecessor Lech Kaczynski and all 95 fellow members of his delegation died on April 10, 2010, when Poland's presidential jet crashed in fog as it tried to land in Smolensk, near Katyn, for last year's memorial event.

Shared mourning over the tragedy fuelled a relative thaw in ties between Warsaw and its communist-era overlord Moscow, although they have sparred over whether errors by the Polish pilots or Russian air traffic controllers were to blame.

In 1940, some 22,000 Polish officers were killed by the Soviet secret police at Katyn and other sites in the region.

They had been captured by the Red Army in 1939 when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany struck a deal to invade and carve up Poland, sparking World War II.

The massacre has long poisoned Polish-Russian ties, notably because Moscow pinned the blame on the Nazis until 1990, and was still rarely discussed in Russia after the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.

In the wake of the Smolensk crash, however, Medvedev declassified period documents about the killings and handed them over to Poland, a move welcomed by Warsaw.

© 2011 AFP

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