Duda draws parallels with Russian war crimes against Poles and Ukrainians

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, has compared some of the crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine to the mass murder of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD during World War Two.

On Wednesday, Duda marked the anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre, a series of mass executions of Polish POWs, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet NKVD security agency in April and May 1940 in western Russia.

"Today we're looking with horror to the East, looking at all those documents, videos and photos that have been coming from Bucha and other places in Ukraine invaded and occupied by Russia, where people were murdered in the same way, some say 'the Katyn way'," the president said.

"We have seen people killed in the streets of Bucha," Duda continued. "We have seen people killed in Bucha cellars by a shot to the back of the head with their hands tied behind them. These crimes are crying out for justice, they are crying out for a just trial for the perpetrators."

Duda went on to say that the Russian criminals must be brought before justice "to prevent crimes like the one in Katyn... from ever being repeated."

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, offered words of sympathy for the Polish victims in a tweet on Thursday.

"Today, in mourning with the fraternal Polish people, we honour the memory of the Katyn crime victims," Zelensky wrote. "May their memory be eternal!"

Commenting on his nation's current fight against the Russian invasion, Zelensky said: "As 83 years ago, the Moscow totalitarian regime continues to kill and torture. We're fighting this evil together on the battlefield and we'll surely win!"

The killings of Polish POWs took place at several locations but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

The victim count is estimated at about 22,000. Apart from Katyn, the executions took place in the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and other locations. About 8,000 of the victims were officers imprisoned following the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, the rest were Polish intellectuals, deemed by the Soviets to be intelligence agents and saboteurs.

The Soviets denied responsibility for the killings claiming they had been carried out by the Germans until 1990, when it officially acknowledged that the NKVD had carried them out.

Soviet responsibility for the Katyn killings was confirmed by an investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004), however, Russia refused to classify them as a war crime or genocide. 

Welcome to The First News weekly newsletter

Every Friday catch up on our editor’s top pick of news about Poland, including politics, business, life and culture. To receive your free email subscription, sign up today.