Horrors of Bucha echo Soviet’s 1940 massacre of Poles in Katyń

As the world reels in horror from Russian atrocities in Ukraine, leading historians and others have been drawing parallels with the 1940 Katyń massacre which saw over 20,000 Poles murdered by Stalin’s secret police. PAP

Pictures taken in towns recaptured by Ukrainian soldiers in the Kyiv region show murdered men, women and children who had their hands and feet bound before being put to death with a gunshot to the back of the head.

Other bodies were burnt, thrown into wells or left in the street. Many showed signs of torture. Women and children had been raped before being murdered. One mass grave contained over 300 bodies.

The famous British historian of Russian totalitarianism Simon Sebag Montefiore was quick to compare the Russian crimes in Bucha to the Katyn massacre.Simon Sebag Montefiore/Twitter

The crimes are so sickening and shocking that many people have compared them with one of the worst and most notorious crimes of the 20th century, also committed by Moscow, the Katyn massacre of 1940.

The comparisons have added poignancy as it was this week in April in 1940 that the NKVD started the six-week-long murder of 21,768 Poles.

Pictures taken in towns recaptured by Ukrainian soldiers in the Kyiv region show murdered men, women and children who had their hands and feet bound before being put to death with a gunshot to the back of the head.Mikhail Palinchak/PAP/EPA

The first transport of victims that headed to Katyn forest for execution departed from the camp in Kozielsk on April 3, 1940, exactly 82 years before the Bucza genocide was revealed.

The famous British historian of Russian totalitarianism Simon Sebag Montefiore was quick to compare the Russian crimes in Bucha to the Katyn massacre.

Other bodies were burnt, thrown into wells or left in the street. Many showed signs of torture. Women and children had been raped before being murdered.Sergey Dolzhenko/PAP/EPA

One mass grave contained over 300 bodies.Lafargue Raphael/PAP/Abaca

He posted on Twitter: “This week in 1940 Stalin & Beria (see below) started the murder of 22000 Poles in Katyn Forest. It took 28 nights & the chief executioner wore a butchers apron over his NKVD uniform. As we absorb todays Russian killings of Ukraine civilians, it’s hard not to think of the past...”

He added later: “U asked if anyone punished for #Katyn, thinking of #Bucha. No, Stalin & five who signed order died naturally. Beria shot. Mikoyan attended JFK's funeral. The executioner of century, Blokhin, Stalin's expert in 'black work', promoted to general, later demoted but buried with honour.”

In a recent interview Montefiore said that Putin now occupies the same office in the Kremlin from which Stalin once ruled.Simon Sebag Montefiore/Twitter

In a recent interview he said that Putin now occupies the same office in the Kremlin from which Stalin once ruled.

Yesterday, Polish Ambassador to the United Nations Krzysztof Szczerski wrote in a statement to the United Nations Security Council meeting that the scenes of mass graves and executions from Bucha evoke the memory of Katyn.

The Polish Embassy in the US said that the scenes of mass graves and executions from Bucha evoke the memory of Katyń.Polish Embassy U.S/Twitter

"For my countrymen, images of people with their hands tied killed by a shot to the back of the head evoke strong emotional historical associations," he said.

"The piles of corpses in muddy mass graves evoke the memory of genocide from Katyn and several other places where more than 20,000 Polish citizens were brutally murdered as a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland," he added.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian political scientist Oleksandr Musiyenko said in an interview in Polish media “I know that Poland is currently experiencing the tragedy of Ukraine and shares its pain with us.”

Ukrainian political scientist Oleksandr Musiyenko said in an interview in Polish media:  “Russia is still acting like the NKVD. Back then, their hands were tied behind their backs, executions were carried out - now the same thing is happening.”Oleksandr Musiyenko/Facebook

Polish cleric Father Waldemar Pawelec, who has been working in Ukraine since 2003, said that for Ukrainians “it's a clear comparison, […] hands tied and a shot in the back of the head, although then it was about Polish officers, today it is happening to ordinary people.”Waldemar Pawelec/Facebook

“Russia is still acting like the NKVD. Back then, their hands were tied behind their backs, executions were carried out - now the same thing is happening.”

Comparisons with Katyn are also being made among ordinary Ukrainians.

The first transport of victims that headed to Katyn forest for execution departed from the camp in Kozielsk on April 3, 1940, exactly 82 years before the Bucza genocide was revealed.PAP

Polish cleric Father Waldemar Pawelec, who has been working in Ukraine since 2003, said “I have heard from people who watched the movie Katyn. They compared what is happening now with what happened in Katyn.

"For them, it's a clear comparison, […] hands tied and a shot in the back of the head, although then it was about Polish officers, today it is happening to ordinary people.”

Prisoners were transported in groups to the forest in Katyn, where they were murdered with a shot to the back of the head after having their hands tied behind their backs.PAP

On April 3, 1940, the Soviets began the liquidation of the POW camp in Kozielsk, which was established after the Soviet army invaded Poland in 1939.

Over 4,000 Polish Army officers were imprisoned there. Similar camps were created in Starobielsk and Ostashkov where policemen and Border Protection Corps officers were held.

The prisoners from Kozielsk were transported in groups to the forest in Katyn, where they were murdered with a shot to the back of the head after having their hands tied behind their backs.

In total, around 14,700 Polish officers were killed in these operations. The remaining 7,305 victims, mostly civilians, included 3,435 from what is known as the Ukrainian Katyn List and 3,870 from the Belarusian Katyn List.Public domain

The Soviets murdered the prisoners from Starobelsk in Kharkov prison and buried them in nearby Pyatichatky. Prisoners from Ostashkov were murdered in Tver and buried in Mednoye.

In total, around 14,700 Polish officers were killed in these operations. The remaining 7,305 victims, mostly civilians, included 3,435 from what is known as the Ukrainian Katyn List and 3,870 from the Belarusian Katyn List.