Stalin ordered Polish officer massacre: Russian parliament
The Russian parliament on Friday agreed in principle a declaration that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin personally ordered the Katyn massacre of Polish officers in World War II.
The State Duma lower house of parliament agreed a text that breaks several years of official reluctance to admit that Stalin and the Soviet leadership ordered the killing of thousands of Polish officers in 1940.
"Materials that for many years have been kept in secret archives and have now been published not only show the extent of this terrible tragedy but show that that Katyn crime was carried out on the direct orders of Stalin and other Soviet leaders," Interfax quoted the declaration as saying.
The text was agreed at an unusually stormy Duma session that featured virulent opposition from the minority Communist Party, some of whose officials still insist the massacre was carried out by the Nazis.
But pro-Kremlin lawmakers hailed the outcome, which was supported by all the other major Duma groups.
"This declaration is without exaggeration of historic importance," the head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying on the website of ruling party United Russia.
About 22,000 Polish officers were executed in 1940 by the NKVD Soviet secret police around Katyn forest in western Russia and a number of other sites in a crime that long strained Russia's relations with Poland.
The Soviet Union initially blamed the massacre on the Nazis and its guilt was only admitted by ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev just before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.
But the crime was rarely again acknowledged in public until the April 10 air crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski -- as he was to attend a ceremony at Katyn -- brought a new rapprochement in Warsaw-Moscow ties.
Russia has since handed over 20 volumes of documents about the massacre to Poland, with President Dmitry Medvedev intending to make "de-Stalinization" into a central theme of the final year of his first term, according to press reports.
The Duma resolution however stressed that Soviet citizens were also victimised by Stalin's repressions and that many of those victims remained buried at Katyn.
"Thousands of Soviet citizens destroyed by Stalin's regime in 1936-38 remain buried in the ditches of Katyn," said the document.
"The technology of conducting mass murders was perfected on these people, and then applied against the Polish servicemen at the same place," the Duma statement said.
© 2010 AFP