Polish leaders pay tribute to Katyn Forest Massacre victims

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda on Friday remembered the victims of the World War II Katyn Forest Massacre.

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POWs, 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 western 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.