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English Section

Polish state history institute slams Russia over Katyn Massacre 'cover-up'

08.05.2020 07:00
Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance has lambasted what it described as “a new wave of efforts to cover up the traces of the Katyn crime by the authorities of present-day Russia.”
Jarosław Szarek, head of Polands Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).
Jarosław Szarek, head of Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

The Polish government-affiliated history institute was reacting after two plaques commemorating the victims of Katyn were reportedly removed from the building of the former regional headquarters of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, in the town of Tver, 180 km north-west of Moscow.

It was in Tver (known as Kalinin until 1990) that, in 1940, about 6,000 Polish POWs from the Ostashkov camp were executed, as part of what became known as the Katyn Massacre, the killing of some 22,000 Poles.

The bilingual inscription, in Russian and Polish, on one of the plaques read: “In memory of the POWs from the Ostashkov camp killed by the NKVD in Kalinin. A warning to the world.”

At the end  of 2019, the regional prosecutor’s office in Tver asked the town authorities to remove the plaques, claiming they had been mounted in violation of regulations. The office also asserted that the inscriptions were not based on documented facts.

The head of the Institute of National Remembrance, Jarosław Szarek, has told public broadcaster Polish Radio that the removal of the plaques is part of “a new form of Russia’s historical policy,” adding that in presenting the history of World War II “the Russian authorities are returning to the communist, Soviet-era narrative.”

Szarek said that the dismantling of the plaques in tribute to Poles murdered by the NKVD “will not efface the memory of the [Katyn] crime.”

The events in Tver were first reported by Radio Svoboda, which cited local activists who take care of the sites of remembrance of the victims of repression in the town.

According to Tvernews.ru, among those who took part in the dismantling of the plaques was one Maxim Kormushkin, an activist of the National-Liberation Movement (NOD), a pro-government organisation that has been repeatedly accused by the independent media of attacks and provocations aimed at opposition leaders.

The Polish embassy in Moscow has been kept informed about the events in Tver.