Russia hands Poland 20 files on Katyn killings

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Russia on Thursday handed to Poland 20 volumes of documents on the World War II Katyn massacre of Polish officers in an official ceremony in Moscow, Russian news agencies said.

Saak Karapetyan, the head of the international legal cooperation at the Russian State Prosecutor's office, handed the volumes to Piotr Marciniak, a minister counsellor at the Polish Embassy in Moscow.

The materials included documents on Polish soldiers sent to prison camps, transcripts of interrogations and death certificates, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the Prosecutor General's office.

The Soviet Union's NKVD secret police shot dead approximately 22,000 Polish officers in spring of 1940 in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk in western Russia, and several other sites in present-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in May promised Poland that Moscow would declassify secret files on Katyn in the latest sign of detente between the two countries.

In a symbolic gesture, he handed over 67 volumes of evidence on the massacre to Bronislaw Komorowski, Poland's acting president at the time.

In 2004, Russian military prosecutors closed an investigation into the killings, refusing to acknowledge the massacre as either a war crime or a crime against humanity.

For decades, Moscow blamed the Katyn massacre on Nazi Germany, until Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev finally admitted in 1990 that the Polish officers had been executed by Stalin's NKVD secret police.

© 2010 AFP

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