116 volumes of the case have been classified as secret by the Russian state

Russia's blockade of the investigation into the massacre of Polish prisoners in Katyn

78 years have passed since the end of World War II, but there are still crimes from that time whose investigation remains blocked.

Katyn: the gross lies and communist denial of the massacre of 22,000 Poles
Russia threatens to destroy the cemetery of Poles killed by the USSR in Katyn

What the ECHR said about Russia's blocking of the investigation

The most relevant case of concealment is the massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war in 1940 at the hands of the Soviets in the Katyn Forest. It is about a massacre that was classified as a war crime by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on April 16, 2012. That sentence referred to what the relatives of those assassinated by Russia found themselves after "a long ordeal during the entire post-war Communist era in which political factors put insurmountable obstacles to their quest for information":

"The institution of Katyn proceedings gave them a spark of hope in the early 1990s but it was gradually extinguished, in the post-ratification period, when the applicants were confronted with the attitude of official denial and indifference in face of their acute anxiety to know the circumstances of the death of their close family members and their burial sites. They were excluded from the proceedings on the pretence of their foreign nationality and barred from studying the materials that had been collected. They received curt and uninformative replies from Russian authorities and the findings that had been made in the judicial proceedings were not only contradictory and ambiguous but also contrary to the historic facts which, nonetheless, were officially acknowledged at the highest political level. The Russian authorities did not provide the applicants with any official information about the circumstances surrounding the death of their relatives or made any earnest attempts to locate their burial sites."

The sentence also denounced the legal trick used by the Russian courts to bury the investigation and prevent the full truth about those war crimes from being known:

"By acknowledging that the applicants’ relatives had been held prisoners in the Soviet camps but declaring that their subsequent fate could not be elucidated, the Russian courts denied the reality of summary executions that had been carried out in the Katyn forest and at other mass murder sites. The Court considers that such approach chosen by the Russian authorities has been contrary to the fundamental values of the Convention and must have exacerbated the applicants’ suffering."

The ECHR further noted that "the applicants were left to bear the brunt of the efforts to uncover any facts relating to the manner in which their relatives died, whereas the Russian authorities demonstrated a flagrant, continuous and callous disregard for their concerns and anxieties. The Court therefore considers that the manner in which the applicants’ enquiries have been dealt with by the Russian authorities has attained the minimum level of severity to be considered inhuman treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention."

Russia keeps many documents about the massacre classified as secret

To this day, 83 years after those crimes, those killed in the Katyn massacre are still not being criminally rehabilitated by Russia, and not due to mere administrative negligence, but because of a veto by the regime itself. Putin. In September 2019, the Russian outlet Kommersant noted: "Despite the demands of the families of the victims and the Polish side, the executed Poles are still not rehabilitated. 35 of the 183 volumes of the investigation of the Office of the Main Military Prosecutor of the Russian Federation (GVP) they are still classified."

Behind this decision there are political motivations, since the Russian Federation is legally the heir to the Soviet Union, according to the UN, and therefore, regarding the crimes committed by the Soviet leaders, Russia is legally the heir to the perpetrators. In addition, there is also a strong motivation as explained by the aforementioned Russian media outlet: "the Russian side has said unofficially that it would not want to face compensation demands."

On January 29, 2019, the official Russian media announced that "The Russian Supreme Court upheld this Thursday the verdict denying the posthumous rehabilitation of ten Polish soldiers executed in Katyn, near the Russian city of Smolensk, during World War II". The decision was made alleging that "the application of public repressive measures was not established as a fact" in relation to the victims. In other words, Russian courts do not recognize the responsibility of the Soviet State in these crimes, and therefore prevent the rehabilitation of those murdered.

Official Russian media continue to encourage Soviet hoaxes about Katyn

The information published at the time by the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti omitted any reference to Soviet responsibility for the massacre, stating the following: "Thousands of soldiers are believed to have been executed in the Katyn forests. and Polish intellectuals who had previously passed through the Gulag camps. Nazi Germany and the USSR blamed each other for this massacre that came to light in 1943, four years after the occupation of Poland."

The infamous attitude of Russia, which continues to fuel the Soviet hoaxes to deny their authorship of that massacre, is clearly evidenced by the official concealment of those crimes. RIA Novosti indicated in 2019 figures even higher than those published by the Russian media < a href="https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4095727#id1125389" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Kommersant: "The Katyn dossier consists of 183 volumes, of which 116 contain data classified as state secret." How is Russia justified in continuing to consider so many documents related to a 1940 massacre committed by the Soviets secret, if not with in order to hide the truth?

Russia continues to hide and falsify the truth about the massacre

This Monday, Ewa Kowalska, director of photography at the Katyń Museum, Department of Martyrology at the Polish Army Museum, denounced Russia's attitude in an article published in Polska Zbrojna: "measures are constantly being taken not only to to further hide and falsify the truth, but also to remove the commemorations of the tragic fate of Polish citizens that existed before in Russia. In Russia, symbols of repression and murder of Polish citizens are being destroyed, for example, the cross erected on the shore of Lake Seliger, as well as the plaque dedicated to the victims of the Katyn massacre, dismantled from the building of the torture chamber in Tver."

Kowalska adds: "So far, the Polish side has not received full lists of names of the people sent to die from the above-mentioned places of detention. We don't know many orders and executive reports, including all the dates of completion of the executions of those sentenced to death in accordance with the decision of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (b) of March 5. 1940. We also do not know all the places where the bodies were hidden." Kolwalska also denounces that Russia has ignored requests to examine graves with more remains of Polish prisoners that have appeared in the area in recent years.

The concealment of the data of the relatives who were deported to Russia

This concealment by Russia is not only done against the victims of the Katyn massacre, but also against the relatives who were deported to Russia to erase the memory of the murdered prisoners. To this day, Russia has not yet made the lists of deportees available to Poland. "The remains of most of them were not buried with dignity in cemeteries, and their resting places are not commemorated", Kowalska denounces, adding:

"Those who survived the forced stay in the depths of Soviet Russia and experienced repression, wrote memories about themselves and their loved ones who remained forever in the East, so that their experiences remained only history, from which future generations should learn so that this does not happen again. Unfortunately, given what is happening now in Ukraine, they are not a thing of the past. Russia remains the aggressor, the invaders rape, murder and transport civilians from the occupied areas into the interior of their country, and propaganda activities aim to falsify reality... It's hard to believe that history is repeating itself before our eyes."


Main image: Still from the Polish film 'Katyń. Ostatni świadek' (2018) about the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers, policemen, civil servants, priests and intellectuals at the hands of the Soviets in April and May 1940.

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