Russia defends Polish plaque change amid furore

10th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The removal of any reference to the Katyn massacre from a plaque commemorating the death in a plane crash of Polish president Lech Kaczynski was justified, a governor said Sunday.

An original Polish version of the plaque had noted that the president and 95 other victims of the crash were travelling to a commemoration of the massacre when their plane came down in Russia's Smolensk region a year ago.

However it was switched with a bilingual plaque that removed all reference to the Katyn massacre of Polish officers, angering the Polish families.

"This is where we mourn the victim of the plane crash," Smolensk governor Sergei Antufyev told reporters, defending the change.

"This is not the place where we mourn the Polish tragedy" at Katyn, he said.

About 22,000 Polish officers were executed at Katyn by the Soviet secret police during World War II.

The late Polish leader and others were travelling to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Polish massacre when their plane crashed on April 10, 2010.

A diplomatic incident flared on Saturday when Polish families of the 96 people killed in the crash discovered that the plaque commemorating the disaster did not refer to Katyn.

The change caused a furore in Warsaw with a foreign ministry spokesman noting that Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski may not lay a wreath to the plaque when he visits the site on Monday.

© 2011 AFP

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