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Will the Victims of the Mass Shootings at Katyn at Last be Rehabilitated

Source: (info), 10/02/11

· Human Rights Defenders · Human Rights Education · Victims of Repression · Moscow City & Moscow Region · Smolensk Region · Tver Region

Russia's ambassador to Warsaw, Aleksandr Alekseev, has said the Polish officers killed at Katyn can be rehabilitated. The Memorial Human Rights Society is convinced the legal rehabilitation of the Polish prisoners of war shot in 1940 in the USSR and the declassification of documents about Katyn will bring final closure to the case of Katyn.

"The search is underway to find ways to rehabilitate the Polish officers who were executed. I am confident that a formula that satisfies relatives and is not contrary to Russian law will be found," he said told Interfax.

The Ambassador also expressed the view that "the question of Katyn can hardly be called unresolved." "What is meant by saying the issue of Katyn is ‘unresolved’? Political condemnation of this crime? Russia has done this repeatedly,” he said. “The latest and convincing example is the recent declaration by the State Duma that has received much attention in Poland. Declassification of the criminal investigation? It is taking place in strict compliance with Russian laws. Poland has already received 137 of the 183 volumes."

The Russian diplomat believes that the Katyn issue should not hinder the development of relations between Moscow and Warsaw. "Apart from all these efforts I have mentioned, another task is no less important. Leave the ‘Katyn question’ to the historians and lawyers so as not to complicate our political relations and not to give temptation to those not interested in their development, but who wish to use the issue as a brake", the diplomat Aleksandr Alekseev stressed.

‘The Katyn crime’ is a collective term. It refers to the shooting in April and May 1940 of almost 22 thousand Polish citizens held in various camps and prisons of the USSR’s NKVD.

The Soviet Union for decades did not recognize the fact that more than 20 thousand Poles and Polish citizens had been shot by the NKVD.

In modern Russia the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office investigated the Katyn events, but closed the investigation in 2004. The resolution of the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office that closed the investigation into Katyn has been classified. In June 2010 the Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told reporters that he sees no reason to reopen the investigation into Katyn or to recognise the murdered Poles as victims of repression.

In 2010, the State Duma of Russia issued a statement acknowledging that Polish officers had been executed at Katyn on the direct orders of Josef Stalin and other Soviet leaders.

Memorial Human Rights Society is convinced that the legal rehabilitation of those Polish prisoners of war shot in 1940 and the declassification of the Katyn documents will mark a final closure for Katyn. Member of the Board of the International Memorial Society Yan Rachinsky pointed out: "To close the ‘Katyn case’, it has to be opened." "Actually,” Yan Rachinsky summed up, “all the remaining issues come down to three points: first, an adequate legal assessment of the crimes; second, the rehabilitation of those shot; and third, the declassification of all the materials of the investigation. If there had been a real desire to do this, it could (and should) have all been done long ago ..."

At the meeting of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and Civil Society on 1 February 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: "<...> It's very sad that 26 percent, a quarter of our country (if that is right, I base myself on your words), considers all this [perpetration of the Katyn massacre by the NKVD -] to be lies, despite the documentary evidence (and I personally have taken down and examined this file with all its various markings). They consider that all this has been falsified to tarnish the reputation of the Fatherland. Unfortunately, there has been no falsification, you and I understand that. But why do I say this? This means that this explanatory work must be carried out more energetically and we must say everything there is to say about this, even if these are difficult pages in our country’s history."

Citing Tomasz Nalencha, an advisor to the Polish President, the newspaper Rzeczpospolita reports that the President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski, with members of his family, will visit Katyn in Russia’s Smolensk Region on 3 April 2011, the Memorial Day for the Polish officers shot there. As well as the President of Poland, at the same time large delegations, from both government and civil society, will come to Katyn.

Text reads: ‘In 1940 NKVD personnel conducted secret mass executions in the USSR.
Almost 22,000 Polish citizens were shot. Those killed have not been rehabilitated to this day.’