Story from Rianovosti, November 27, 2010:
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Saturday hailed the decision by the lower house of Russia’s parliament approving a declaration recognizing the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish officers as a crime committed by Stalin’s regime.
“I believe this is a positive signal that came from Moscow before the upcoming visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Warsaw. We must accept this document with great satisfaction keeping in mind that this is an official document by the [Russian] parliament,” Komorowski was quoted by Polish media as saying.
Medvedev is scheduled to visit Poland by the end of the year.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called the Russian State Duma’s decision a “good step” and said he expects further steps from Russia in the same direction.
According to official data, over 20,000 Polish officers were killed in 1940 by the NKVD – the Soviet secret police. The executions took place in various parts of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The largest massacre occurred in the Katyn forest near the Russian city of Smolensk.
The Communists, who opposed the declaration after it was drafted, say the Polish officers were executed “by German occupation authorities in the fall of 1941, rather than by the NKVD in 1940.” They also say they can provide documents to prove their viewpoint.
Communist lawmaker Vladimir Kashin said if the draft was adopted then the relatives of those shot in the massacre would attempt to gain financial compensation from Russia.
The issue has been a source of tension in Russian-Polish ties, but Russia’s recent admission that Soviet forces were responsible did much to improve relations.
President Lech Kaczynski and other Polish dignitaries were killed in a plane crash earlier this year whilst on their way to a memorial ceremony for the Polish officers slain in Russia.