Katyn Forest Massacre anniversary marked

Tuesday marked the 78th anniversary of the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre of around 22,000 Polish army officers, policemen and members of the intelligentsia by the Soviet security agency NKVD. Most of the executions took place in the Katyn Forest in west Russia.

The observances at the Polish Military Cemetery in Katyn were attended by a Polish delegation led by Poland's Ambassador to Russia Wlodzimierz Marciniak and Polish Diaspora representatives from Smolensk.

Flowers were laid at the Russian and Polish parts of the Katyn Memorial. There are over 4,000 Polish officers buried at the Polish Military Cemetery in Katyn, murdered by the NKVD.

During a mass for the victims of the Soviet crime, the ambassador recalled the speech the late President Lech Kaczynski was to deliver in Katyn eight years ago. The late Polish head of state planned to say, among other things, that the Katyn crime would always be a reminder of the threat of destroying people and nations, and of the strength of a lie. But he was also to emphasise that even in the most difficult times, people and nations knew how to choose freedom and defend the truth. 

President Lech Kaczynski died in an air crash together with 95 other people on their way to the observances marking the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre. 

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POW's, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet security agency NKVD in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in west Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

The massacre was initiated by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria, who proposed executing all captive members of the Polish officer corps. The victim count is estimated at about 22,000. The executions took place in Katyn Forest, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. About 8,000 of the victims were officers imprisoned during 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.

In 1943, the government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in Katyn Forest. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Stalin promptly severed diplomatic relations with the London-based cabinet. The Soviets claimed that the killings had been carried out by the Nazis in 1941 and denied responsibility for the massacres. In 1990, Russia officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the massacre by the NKVD.

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. 

In November 2010, the Russian State Duma passed a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordained the massacre.