Factbox: Russia blames Stalin for Polish officer massacre

Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:00pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Here are some details on the massacre of 22,000 Polish troops in the Katyn forest in 1940. Russian parliament on Friday approved a resolution blaming Soviet dictator Josef Stalin directly for the massacre.

* BACKGROUND:

-- Germany invaded Poland from the west in 1939, and Soviet forces occupied the eastern half of Poland. As a consequence of this occupation, tens of thousands of Polish military personnel fell into Soviet hands and were interned in prison camps inside the Soviet Union.

-- However after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Polish government-in-exile (located in London) and the Soviet government agreed to cooperate against Germany, and a Polish army on Soviet territory was to be formed.

* A FALSE TRAIL:

-- When Poland requested the return of 15,000 prisoners of war from the Soviets, the Soviet government informed Poland in December 1941 that most of those prisoners had escaped to Manchuria and could not be located.

* MASSACRE:

-- On April 13, 1943, the Germans announced they discovered the mass graves of Polish officers in the Katyn forest near Smolensk.

-- A total of 4,443 corpses were recovered. The fate of the remainder is still unknown. They had apparently been shot from behind and piled in stacks and buried. Investigators identified the corpses as the Polish officers who had been interned at the Soviet camp near Smolensk and accused the Soviet authorities of having executed the prisoners in May 1940.   Continued...