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Moscow to declare Katyn massacre victims innocent

October 21, 2011

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MOSCOW—Moscow is ready to declare thousands of victims of a World War II-era massacre that continues to strain relations with Poland innocent of any crimes, Russia's foreign policy chief announced Friday.

About 2,000 Polish officers and other prisoners were executed by Soviet secret police in the Katyn forest of western Russia in 1940 on charges they were enemies of the Soviet state.

The Katyn massacre has been a source of tension between Russia and Poland for decades since the Soviet Union blamed the killings on the Nazis. It was only last year that Russia formally took the blame when the lower chamber of Russian parliament admitted the executions were ordered by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Prosecutors closed the criminal case against the Polish officers in 2004.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a radio interview on Friday that Moscow is "ready to consider a perfectly legitimate request to declare these people innocent."

Several Polish families went to the European Court of Human Rights to prove the victims' innocence. Lavrov said Russia is anxious to work out a solution that would "satisfy families of the Polish officers and keep Russia within the legal framework."

Russia's ambassador to Poland said earlier this year that Russia made a political decision to declare the officers innocent of any crimes against the Soviet Union.

Lavrov confirmed Friday that Moscow and Warsaw are still thinking about how to settle the issue.

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