Sun, Mar 13, 2005 - Page 6 News List

1940 massacre of Polish officers `not genocide'


Russia's top military prosecutor said Friday that an investigation has concluded that the 1940 massacre of more than 21,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police did not constitute genocide.

"At Poland's request, we thoroughly investigated these events," Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

"The criminal case was dropped ... as there was no instance of genocide against the Polish people either at the state level or from a legal standpoint," Savenkov was quoted as saying.

More than 900 witnesses were questioned and some of the bodies were exhumed and examined as part of the investigation, he said.

"It has been established that the conditions in which the internees were held met the standards and requirements of that period," Savenkov said, according to Interfax.

Poland's state-run National Remembrance Institute is investigating the World War II-era killings in the Katyn forest and at other sites after the Russian investigation into the massacre failed to produce the names of more perpetrators. To carry out its work, the institute has asked Moscow to hand over its files on the massacre.

But last week, the Russian Embassy in Warsaw told Polish prosecutors that Moscow would hand over only 67 out of 183 Katyn files.

Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said Poland would not accept Russia's decision and suggested he felt Moscow has something to hide.

Savenkov confirmed that Russia was withholding 116 files from Polish investigators on grounds of secrecy.

The memory of the massacre has remained a strong irritant in Polish-Russian relations, adding to bitterness over the Soviet Union's invasion of eastern Poland after Nazi Germany invaded from the west in 1939 at the start of World War II.

Leon Kieres, head of Poland's National Remembrance Institute, said Friday that Russia's refusal to define the Katyn massacre as genocide "is not surprising but disenchanting." "This means that the Russians have not given deeper thought to the aim of this crime," he said.

The order for the massacre was signed March 5, 1940, by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, among others. Soviet agents shot 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectuals and priests who were taken prisoner when the Soviet Union invaded.

Historians in Poland believe Stalin ordered the killings to liquidate Poland's elite and hinder the rebirth of a sovereign Polish state.

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