Polish president visits Katyn massacre site in Ukraine

25th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski paid homage Saturday to thousands of Polish officers murdered in the 1940 Soviet-era Katyn massacre in a visit to a grave site in Ukraine.

Komorowski and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov joined about 300 relatives of the killed officers to lay wreaths at a memorial plaque in the centre of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

It was the first visit by the Polish leader to Ukraine since his July election, which followed the death of former president Lech Kacyznski in a plane crash in April en route to a commemoration of the same massacre.

About 22,000 Polish officers were executed by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's NKVD secret police at Katyn and a number of other sites in present-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in April and May 1940.

Moscow blamed the massacre on Nazi Germany for decades, until Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev admitted in 1990 that the Polish officers had been executed by the Soviet secret police.

Moscow's refusal to open a probe into the murders and declassify all the archives in the case had long been a strain in its ties with Warsaw but Russia has recently made moves to repair the damage.

In May Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a symbolic gesture, handed Komorowski 67 of nearly 190 volumes of documents on the Katyn case, with the rest marked top secret.

On Thursday Russia again handed Poland another 20 volumes in an official ceremony in Moscow.

Some archives had been declassified in 1992 but were not made public until this year.

Among them is a March 1940 memo by the NKVD head Lavrenty Beria -- addressed to Stalin and signed by the Soviet dictator -- proposing to execute Polish officers held in prisoner camps.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article