Memorial appeals to President Medvedev to end lies and secrecy over Katyń
Memorial Appeal to President Medvedev in connection with the Seventieth Anniversary of the Katyń Massacre
Dear Mr President,
70 years ago, on 5 March 1940, the Soviet Politburo, headed by Joseph Stalin, took the decision which led to the execution without trial in April and May of that same year of 14.5 thousand Polish officers and policemen being held in three NKVD prisoner of war camps at Kozelsk, Ostashkove and Starobelsk, as well as 7.3 thousand people arrested and held in custody in prisoners of the western regions of the Ukrainian and Belorussian SSR.
Katyń, up till 1991 the only fully established place of execution of some of the victims has become the symbol of this crime.
The Katyń crime was not only the murder in spring of 1940 of almost 22 thousand Polish citizens. It was also half a century of lies and falsification when the Soviet Union despite the clear facts denied its responsibility for the murder of the Polish prisoners of war and tried to convince the world and its own citizens that the crime had been the work of the Nazis. The situation only changed in 1990 when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev passed to Poland’s President Wojciech Jaruzelski a list of names of the prisoners of war executed, and some other documents showing that the operation had been carried out by the NKVD.
At that time a criminal file was opened and passed to the Central Military Prosecutor under No. 159.
In 1992 on the instructions of President Yeltsin documents were made public which indicted the Soviet leadership for the Katyń killings.
In the most important document – a note from the People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs, Beria to Stalin and the Central Committee of the Communist Party suggesting that the Polish prisoners of war and those in prison be shot since “they are hardened, incorrigible enemies of the Soviet regime”. The resolution in favour is signed by Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Mikoyan and a note that Kalinin and Kaganovich also voted in favour.
In 2000 memorial cemeteries were opened at the places where the remains lie of the executed prisoners of war in the Katyń forest and near the village of Mednoye in the Tver region, as well as in Kharkiv. It seemed as though the lies and silence on the question of Katyń had come to an end, that there were no more grounds in our country for distrust.
However in 2004 the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation terminated the investigation into the “Katyń Case” What is more, the main material of the case, including the Military Prosecutor’s Resolution on terminating the investigation, were classified as secret by the Inter-departmental Commission on the Protection of State Secrets which the President of the Russian Federation is in charge of.
The classification as secret of documents pertaining to the “Katyń Case” is quite evidently in breach of the RF Law on State Secrets which does not permit information about human rights violations and infringements of the law by State bodies and their officials being classified as State secrets and consequently concealed
Despite this the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Inter-departmental Commission on the Protection of State Secrets have to this day refused to revoke their decision to classify the material.
The Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office is still refusing to act in accordance with the Russian Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, claiming against the obvious truth that a political motive, and even the fact of execution of each individual prisoner of war cannot be established.
Referring to this secret status, the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office has refused to name those whom it has found guilty, reporting only that these “are particular people from the leadership of the NKVD of the USSR”, whose actions are classified un Article 193-17.b of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (1926) as “exceeding ones power with this having grave consequences where there are especially aggravating circumstances”.
Thus, Stalin and the members of the Politburo, having taken the decision to shoot en mass Polish citizens, are found innocent of the “Katyń crime” which previously, in a TASS Statement from 13 April 1990, had been named “one of the grave crimes of Stalinism”. And the very crime, committed on the instruction of the Soviet leadership and being effectively an act of State terrorism is now qualified as the exceeding of power by some heads at departmental level, in other words, as their taking the law into their own hands.
From our point of view, the extra-judicial execution of prisoners of war and civilians should be classified as Items b and c of Article 6 of the Statute of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg – as a war crime and crime against humanity.
The termination of the investigation into the Katyń case, the classifying of its material and the outrageously inadequate legal assessment provided by the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office, the refusal to recognize those murder as victims of political repression are perceived by the public both within the country and abroad as a rejection of the move towards the truth begun in the 1990s. Attempts are being made to reanimate the Stalin falsified version of events not just in the gutter press, but from parliament. As a result, the shadow of the crimes and lies of the Stalin regime is falling upon today’s Russia.
We call on you, Mr President, in this situation to use your powers and facilitate the following urgent measures:
1. Revoke the decision of the Inter-departmental Commission on the Protection of State Secrets from 22 December 2004 to make material about the Katyń case secret;
2. Restart the investigation into the crime of the Katyń case in order to establish by procedural means the full personal list of all victims of the executions, both prisoners of war and other prisoners; establish, together with the Prosecutor’s Officers of Ukraine and Belarus, the places of burial of executed prisoners of the prisoners of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus, as well as a comprehensive list of those guilty, including those who took part in the decision to execute the Polish prisoners, as well as the organizers of this criminal operation, and those who carried this out at all levels; accurate and full legal classification of the crimes committed in accordance with requirements of Russian and international law.
3. Name by name rehabilitation in accordance with the RF Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression of all those shot at the decision of the Politburo from 5 March 1940.
In April 2010 joint Polish-Russian commemorative measures are scheduled to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyń massacres. It is known that Prime Minister Putin has invited Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk. We sincerely welcome the high State level of this event, as well as the fact that it was initiated by the Russian side.
Nonetheless, bearing in mind the importance and painful nature of the issue, we believe it vital that the President takes part in this ceremony. Or if for some reason this is impossible, than there should at least be a public statement from the President of Russia on the Katyń killings.
We believe that clear and unequivocal condemnation of the crime committed by Soviet State bodies following the decision of the leadership, a statement of steps planned to bring the Katyń case out of a dead end could be a turning point in the relations between Russia and Poland.
Such a statement is needed not only for the sake of Russia’s reputation in the world. It is much more important for the successful future of our country which is impossible without honest assessment of the totalitarian crimes.