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Europe

Russian parliament admits Stalin ordered Katyn massacre

media Women stand at crosses commemorating the victims of Stalin's regime in Minsk Reuters

The lower house of the Russian parliament has approved a declaration that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin personally ordered the Katyn massacre of Polish officers in 1940, Russian media reported.

The decision comes in the wake of a new de-Stalinisation drive led by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and breaks decades of reluctance to acknowledge Stalin’s responsibility for the killings.

"Materials that for many years have been kept in secret archives and have now been published not only show the extent of this terrible tragedy but show that that Katyn crime was carried out on the direct orders of Stalin and other Soviet leaders," the
declaration stated.

During World War II Stalin and the Russian leadership ordered the execution of 14,000 Polish officers. For 50 years, the Soviet leadership blamed the Nazis, who discovered the mass graves in the forest of Katyn, for the massacre.

The “Katyn case” has complicated relations between Russia and Poland for many years and recent Russian steps have heralded a new era in bilateral relations.

In April, the Polish premier Donald Tusk and his counterpart Vladimir Putin attended a ceremony in Russia in honour of the Katyn dead.

In May, Russia handed over files pertaining to the execution of Polish officers to the Polish side.

The de-Stalinisation drive will also include the declassification of Secret Soviet archives, including millions of case files the services compiled on normal citizens.

In January, Medvedev will meet rights activists with his human rights envoy Mikhail Fedotov, the Vedomosti business paper says.

According to its report, the activists will urge Medvedev to give a “political and legal assessment of totalitarian crimes".

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