Polish embassy protests Russian attempts to deny Stalinist crimes

The Polish embassy in Moscow has issued a statement condemning attempts "to falsify the NKVD's responsibility for the Katyn Massacre" at a conference on Polish-Russian relations held near Moscow in November.

The conference, which took place on November 16-18, was organised by the Russian Military-Historical Society (RMHS) in the Tver region, some 150 kilometres north-west of Moscow.

"The Polish Embassy in Moscow is surprised to acknowledge the fact that during a conference on Polish-Russian relations, which took place in the Tver region in November 2020, statements were made that were aimed to falsify the facts concerning the Katyn Massacre in Tver and Mednoye," the embassy said in its statement.

"In our view, the version of history promoted at the conference was aimed to falsify the NKVD's responsibility for the Katyn Massacre in Mednoye and legitimise the Stalinist version of the crime that put the blame on Nazi Germany," the embassy also said.

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POWs, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet NKVD in April and May 1940.

The killings, which still cast a cloud over Polish-Russian relations, 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.

The embassy took exception to the fact that the conference had been supported by some deputies to Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, who had revealed plans to cancel a previous Duma resolution confirming "the USSR's responsibility for the Katyn Massacre."

The resolution passed in 2010, "not only condemned the Katyn Massacre, but also said it was carried out upon an order issued by Joseph Stalin and other Soviet leaders," the embassy said.

The embassy also stated that the RMHS conference was held in Svetlica in the Tver region, close to the site of a Polish POW camp in Ostashkov, and at the Medical University in Tver.

Tver has also been the site of another Polish-Russian controversy. In May, activists associated with the National Liberation Movement (NOD), a nationalist organisation calling for the restoration of Russia's sovereignty and its former strength, removed a plaque commemorating the prisoners of the Ostashkov POW who became victims of Soviet terror, sparking protests from the Polish government.

Last year, a regional prosecutor's office asked Tver city authorities to remove the plaque, arguing it had been placed there in breach of regulations.

In a response, on Wednesday, to the Polish embassy's statement, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he had no knowlege of "any revaluation of the Katyn events." Peskov also accused the Polish side of "closing its eyes" on what took place in the course of the common history of Poland and Russia.

Referring to differences in the perception of the Katyn Massacre, Peskov spoke about Russian President Vladimit Putin's 2009 visit to Poland - as the then-prime minister of Russia - for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. Peskov said that all relevant judgments relating to the Katyn events had been voiced on that occasion.

"It was there that all the opinions were voiced, it was there that all the historians came together (...), and it is these opinions that should be the orientation point," he said.