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Polish Minister Criticizes Russia

March 9, 2005

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Poland’s foreign minister sharply criticized Russia on Wednesday for withholding documents that could shed light on the 1940 massacre of 21,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police, a news agency reported.

``I can only imagine that there is only one reason for it _ disgrace and shame,″ Poland’s PAP news agency quoted Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld as saying in the southern city of Krakow.

Poland’s state-run National Remembrance Institute is investigating the World War II-era killings in the Katyn forest and at other sites after a Russian investigation into the massacre failed to produce the names of more perpetrators. To carry out its work, the institute has asked Moscow to hand over its files on the massacre.

But last week, the Russian Embassy in Warsaw told Polish prosecutors that Moscow would hand over only 67 of the more than 100 files, saying the rest are protected by ``a secrecy clause,″ said Pawel Karolak, an institute official.

Rotfeld said Poland would not accept Russia’s decision and suggested he felt Moscow has something to hide, PAP reported.

``One should ask here an elementary question: What could the secrets from 65 years ago be that justify the fact that documents on the massacre of Polish officers are not made available?″ Rotfeld said.

The memory of the massacre is still an irritant in Polish-Russian relations, adding to bitterness over the Soviet Union’s invasion of eastern Poland after Nazi Germany invaded from the west in 1939 at the start of World War II.

The order for the massacre was signed March 5, 1940, by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, among others. Soviet agents shot 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectuals and priests who were taken prisoner when the Soviet Union invaded.

Historians in Poland believe Stalin ordered the killings to liquidate Poland’s elite and hinder the rebirth of a sovereign Polish state.

In 1990, the Soviet government accepted responsibility for the massacre, but refused to refer to it as a genocide attempt, calling it a war crime on which the statute of limitations has passed.

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