Russian president turns gives long-sought Katyn massacre files to Polish leader

By Jim Heintz, AP
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Russia gives Poland long-sought Katyn files

MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday turned over scores of volumes from an investigation into the Katyn massacre to his Polish counterpart, a move underlining Moscow’s new willingness to repair long-troubled relations with Warsaw.

The World War II massacre of some 20,000 Polish officers and other prominent citizens by Soviet secret police has been an issue that soured relations between the countries for decades.

After decades of blaming the 1940 massacre on invading Nazi troops, the Soviet Union in 1990 acknowledged responsibility, part of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost initiatives. But officials refused to refer to it as a genocide attempt — a designation that Poland had sought because international law generally considers that genocide has no statue of limitations.

The Soviet Union began a criminal investigation the same year, but it was closed in 2004. The chief military prosecutor later said the case was closed because the killings were not found to be genocide.

The 67 volumes that Medvedev turned over to acting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski are files from that investigation, Russian news agencies said. Polish historians have agitated for access to the case files, and Medvedev indicated there was information to come.

“Work on the criminal case, including the declassifying of material, will be continued by my order,” Medvedev was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Komorowski expressed gratitude.

“The Katyn crime, the Katyn lie, is a stumbling block between our countries. The truth about Katyn is an ordeal experienced jointly by both Poland and Russia. It may serve as a good basis for the further development of relations between our countries,” he said according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Medvedev presented the Katyn volumes on the day before Victory Day, when Russia will have massive, solemn commemorations of the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The move could bolster respect for Russia fitful attempts to come to grips with its bloody Soviet legacy even as it passionately proclaims the valor and sacrifice of its troops and people in World War II.

Katyn inadvertently drew world attention a month ago when Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 other Poles died in a plane crash in Russia while coming to attend a Katyn commemoration.

The plane crashed April 10 as it was coming in for a landing in Smolensk in heavy fog. Preliminary investigation details appear to point at pilot error, but it remains unclear why the plane attempted to land in such poor conditions.

Medvedev told Komorowski on Saturday that final investigation results will be made public.

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