Deputy PM vows ‘strong protest’ over removal of Katyń memorial plaques in Russian city

Gliński said that the removal of the plaques was a sad matter for Polish-Russian relations. Andrzej Lange/PAP

Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński has hit out at Russia over the removal of two commemorative Katyń plaques in the northwestern Russian city of Tver.

The twin plaques paying tribute to Polish prisoners of war from the local Ostashkov camp who were murdered as part of the 1940 Katyń massacre of around 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals, were photographed being removed from a former NKVD security service local headquarters.

Local activist Artem Vazhenkov posted photos showing men removing the bilingual Polish-Russian plaque from the face of the building.Artem Vazhenkov/Facebook

Local activist Artem Vazhenkov posted photos showing men removing the bilingual Polish-Russian plaque from the face of the building. Vazhenkov said a second, Russian-language, plaque had also been removed.

While the reasons for the removal remain unknown, Tvernews.ru quoted one of the men involved, Maksim Komushkin of the pro-government National-Liberation Movement (NOD), as saying the plaques would remain at home with him though he was prepared to transfer them to social organisations.

The inscription on the plaque read: “In memory of prisoners of the Ostashkov camp murdered by the NKVD in Kalinin, to the world with a warning – the Katyń Family.” The inscription appeared above a cross at the base of which was an outstretched hand bound in barbed wire.Masza Makarova/Twitter

Independent media have often accused NOD activists of attacks and provocations targeting opposition activists.

Minister Gliński told Polish Radio 3 that pressure had been applied to remove the memorials, which, he said, spoke of “obvious and true” matters, adding that it was a sad matter for Polish-Russian relations.

While the reasons for the removal remain unknown, Tvernews.ru said one of the men involved was Maksim Komushkin from the pro-government National-Liberation Movement.Artem Vazhenkov/Facebook

The Polish inscription on the bilingual plaque read: “In memory of prisoners of the Ostashkov camp murdered by the NKVD in Kalinin, to the world with a warning – the Katyń Family.” The inscription appeared above a cross at the base of which was an outstretched hand bound in barbed wire.

The Russian-language plaque was inscribed: “In memory of the tortured. Here in the years 1930-50 was situated the management of the NKVD-MGB of the Kalinin Oblast and an internal prison.” Kalinin was the name of Tver from 1931 to 1990.

The building from where the plaques were removed was a former HQ of the local NKVD, Stalin’s murderous secret police.Paweł Supernak/PAP

Late last year, city authorities received a prosecutor’s request for the plaques’ removal. Acting regional prosecutor Elvin Baydin argued that the memorials had been put up illegally, citing the wrong building number in the decision of Tver City Council’s Executive Committee from 1991.

He further argued that the contents of the plaque were inconsistent with historical fact supported by documentation.