01 May 2010
Russia publishes Katyn documents
Last week Russia published online once-secret files on the Katyn massacre, in which some 22,000 members of the Polish elite were killed by Soviet forces.
Previously "Packet No. 1" original files had until now only been available to researchers. They had been declassified in 1992 on the order of the then-Russian president, Boris Yeltsin but it wasn’t until now that current President Dmitry Medvedev ordered their publication online.
One of the documents is a 5 March, 1940 letter from the then-head of the Soviet secret police or NKVD, Lavrenty Beria, to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, recommending the execution of Polish prisoners of war. Beria refers to them as "steadfast, incorrigible enemies of Soviet power..."Each of them is just waiting for liberation so as to actively join the struggle against Soviet power," it says.
The letter bears Stalin's signature in blue pencil, with the comment "In favour".
Among the files that remain secret are documents relating to a Russian investigation into the massacre that began in the 1990s. Russian human rights campaigners have appealed for those documents to be declassified.
One of the documents now posted online was a March 1959 letter marked "Top Secret" from the former head of the KGB, Alexander Shelepin, to then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, proposing that all dossiers concerning the Katyn killings be destroyed.
He said the authorities should just keep a few documents - the minutes of meetings of the NKVD troika that condemned the prisoners and some papers on the fulfilment of the troika's instructions. Shelepin wrote that the official Soviet version - that Nazi Germany had carried out the killings - had been "firmly implanted in international opinion".
Although the documents have been available since the 1990’s it is a good move to make them available to anyone who wishes to see them. It was an appalling act, albeit one of many perpetrated by one of the most murderous regimes this planet has seen