Poland marks anniversary of Katyn massacre

Marcin Obara/PAP

Polish officials marked the 82nd anniversary of the massacre of Polish POWs by the Soviet secret police NKVD on Wednesday, with the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, urging for the crime of Katyn not to be forgotten.

Morawiecki attended a ceremony in Warsaw on Wednesday morning during which he said that the "memory of Polish officers killed in Katyn and other places... just like the (memory) of Russian genocide in Ukraine cannot be covered with the dust of oblivion, obscurity and non-existence."

The prime minister was referring to numerous reports of war crimes which could have been committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

"We know what the murderers want, which is to pretend nothing happened, to pretend that a return to business as usual is possible, just forget this handful of accidental deaths," the prime minister said.

"But no, this is torture, this is death, these are mass graves just like the ones Soviet criminals dug for our heroes in 1940," Morawiecki said.

The Katyn Forest Massacre in western Russia was 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.

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. 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.