Local Russian activists call for demolition of Polish Katyn memorial

Images posted online showed heavy machinery, bearing the pro-war 'Z' and 'V' symbols, approaching the Katyn monument in an apparent bid to destroy it. Tadeusz Giczan/Twitter

Activists from the western Russian city of Smolensk have petitioned the country's parliament, the Duma, to demolish a symbolic memorial site to the Katyn massacre and a cemetery for its victims, Russian daily Kommersant has reported.

Images posted online showed heavy machinery, bearing the pro-war 'Z' and 'V' symbols, approaching the Katyn monument in an apparent bid to destroy it.

The memorial site and monument commemorate the Katyn Forest Massacre in western Russia, 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. The killings took place at several locations, but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in western Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

Kommersant wrote the petition calls for the Katyn monument to be demolished but the graves of Polish victims to be left untouched. The signatories argued that Poland's position on the war in Ukraine justifies "the truth being set straight about Katyn."

The activists claimed that the Russian government had "yielded on the Katyn issue" in order to maintain good relations with Poland, but argued that normal relations no longer existed with Poland due to its support of Ukraine in the current war. They also justified their calls as a protest against Russian memorials being demolished in Poland.

Stanisław Żaryn, director of the National Security Department, told PAP the move was part of wider aggressive actions against Poland on the part of Russian authorities.

"The provocation aimed at the cemetery in Katyn is part of the aggressive actions against Poland," he continued. "Falsely accusing us of destroying the graves of Soviet soldiers - which has not happened - Moscow is threatening a cemetery in which victims of the Katyn Massacre are buried - genocide committed on orders by the Kremlin.

"It breached further boundaries," Zaryn said, adding that the war in Ukraine showed that Russia is a "bandit country that uses terror, aggression and shocking crimes against other states and nations."