Removal of Polish flags from Katyn memorial' tramples' on victims' memory - official

Wojciech Pacewicz/PAP

Russia is “trampling on the memory” of the victims of the Katyn Massacre by removing Polish flags from their cemetery, a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman has claimed.

The removal of the flags over the weekend prompted the Polish government to lodge an official diplomatic protest with the Russian authorities.

"We have done everything that was possible but we hope to do more to avoid a situation in which the memory of the murdered soldiers is being trampled on," Lukasz Jasina told PAP on Tuesday.

"It’s terrible but it seems that their memory is being murdered for a second time."

Jasina confirmed that a diplomatic note had been sent to Russia and added that Poland was now waiting for a response.

The incident was first reported by an independent Russian portal, which published a photo of an empty mast and quoted Smolensk's mayor as saying that there was no place for Polish flags at Russian cemeteries.

The memorial site and monument commemorate the Katyn Forest Massacre in western Russia, a series of mass executions of close to 22,000 Polish POWs, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet NKVD secret police 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.

"A cemetery is not a monument. As it is not a symbol of power but a site where soldiers are laid to rest, it should be treated with respect," Jasina continued, adding that all matters related to war cemeteries had been covered by a Polish-Russian agreement signed in 1994.

"It would be good if the Russian Federation... did not take revenge on the cemetery containing the tombs of soldiers who had been murdered by Soviet totalitarianism, which has now seen the return, for example, of symbols used by the Russian authorities," he concluded.