Russia posts documents about massacre online

By Lynn Berry
Associated Press / April 29, 2010

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MOSCOW — Russia’s state archives posted documents on the Internet for the first time yesterday about the Soviet Union’s World War II massacre of more than 20,000 Polish officers and other prominent citizens.

The step was a gesture to Poland in a case that looms large in Polish history and has soured relations between the two countries for decades.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the documents posted on the archives’ Russian-language website, reflecting a new willingness in Russia to accept responsibility for the killings at Katyn and elsewhere in 1940.

Relations between Russia and Poland have warmed after the April 10 plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 others on a flight to visit the Katyn forest in western Russia for a memorial ceremony on the 70th anniversary of the massacre.

But while Medvedev’s order was intended as a positive gesture, the documents posted yesterday were made public long ago. Many more documents remain classified.

Medvedev later promised that more documents would be released. The Katyn documents would help people learn from history, he said.

“Let everyone know what was done, who made the decisions, who ordered the elimination of the Polish officers,’’ he said.

In Warsaw, Poland Prime Minister Donald Tusk was cautiously optimistic, saying he welcomed the sentiment but would await Russia’s next step.

The documents now on the Internet were made public in 1992 by Boris Yeltsin.

For 50 years, the Soviet Union blamed the massacres on the Nazi forces that invaded in 1941.