Polish-Russian thaw good news for ex-Soviet bloc: Lithuania

5th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Blossoming Warsaw-Moscow ties are a positive move for the whole ex-Soviet bloc, Lithuania's Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said Sunday ahead of a visit to Poland by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone on the very positive dynamics in Polish-Russian relations," Kubilius said in Warsaw on the eve of Medvedev's arrival in the Polish capital for an official visit.

"We are looking forward to the forthcoming visit of President Medvedev as a very important step, not only for Poland but for the whole region," he added,

Kubilius and his counterparts from former Soviet-ruled Estonia and Latvia held talks Sunday with Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Polish-Russian relations have warmed since the liberal Tusk won office in 2007, defeating a conservative, nationalist government.

They have thawed further still this year, amid shared mourning after Poland's then president Lech Kaczynski died in a place crash in Russia in April.

Kubilius underscored the importance of a recent declaration by Russia's Duma, or lower house of parliament, blaming Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin personally for ordering the 1940 massacre of around 22,000 captured Polish officers.

"We see very positive events regarding historical memory and historical justice," said Kubilius.

"The Russian Duma's statement condemning Stalinist crimes is again important not only for Poland but for the whole post-Soviet region," he said.

For decades after World War II, Moscow blamed Nazi Germany for the massacre in the Katyn forest in western Russia and other sites.

The Kremlin only acknowledged responsibility in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, but thereafter there was little discussion in Russia of the massacre and a war crimes case was dropped.

As a result, the issue remained a thorn in Warsaw-Moscow ties, until the Kremlin changed tack radically after Kaczynski's air-crash death as he landed for a 70th anniversary ceremony at Katyn.

The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were taken over by the Soviet Union during World War II and, since regaining independence in 1991, have pushed Moscow to acknowledge communist-era crimes on their territory.

"I am certain that all Stalinist, Soviet crimes... will be condemned in the spirit of reconciliation," Kubilius said.

© 2010 AFP

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