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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 28, 2011
Politics & Society
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In Brief
April 28, 2011   
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Presidents in Katyn
Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev April 11 paid their first joint visit to Katyn forest in western Russia, the site of the 1940 mass execution of Polish army officers by Soviet secret police.

It was the first visit by a Russian president to the site of the mass killings, which to this day strain relations between Moscow and Warsaw.

“This region has witnessed difficult pages in our common history,” Medvedev said in Katyn. “We should work together to uncover all [historical] secrets.” Medvedev added that the Russian authorities would do everything to disclose all documents on the Katyn massacre still hidden in archives, including files on the perpetrators and victims.

Referring to communist-era denials that the Polish officers— who were taken prisoner after the Soviet invasion of Poland on Sept. 17, 1939—were killed by the Soviet secret police on Joseph Stalin’s orders, Komorowski said, “We have to cut the Gordian knot of the Katyn lie for good.” He added, “Our nations need such a process of reconciliation.”

The two presidents attended ceremonies commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Katyn massacre held at the Polish Military Cemetery in Katyn Forest. Present were also 220 relatives of the victims.

Earlier, Komorowski and Medvedev laid wreaths at Severnyi Airport in nearby Smolensk, at the site where a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczyński crashed on April 10 last year. Kaczyński, his wife and all the 94 other people on board, including top military commanders and politicians, died in the crash. The delegation headed by Kaczyński had been on its way to ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

After laying wreaths at a birch tree in which debris from the presidential plane was embedded, Komorowski and Medvedev touched the tree trunk in a symbolic gesture and hugged each other.

Wałęsa on Mission to Tunisia
A Polish diplomatic mission headed by former President Lech Wałęsa will pay a visit to Tunisia April 28-30. Its goal is to support the democratic changes in the country that started in the wake of the Tunisian revolution and the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Jan. 14.

“It will be a mission of a group of fathers of democracy headed by Lech Wałęsa,” said Krzysztof Stanowski, Polish deputy foreign minister. The Polish Foreign Ministry is organizing the trip. Four or five people will take part in the mission. The program of the visit includes public meetings and talks with young people. The foreign ministry also plans other activities aimed at supporting democratic change in Tunisia, including study visits, workshops and training courses on response to crisis situations.

A mission of Polish foreign ministry officials and nongovernmental organizations traveled to Tunisia in March. Its aim was to establish contact with Tunisian local and central government officials and universities. The foreign ministry has listed support for democratic changes around the world as an important part of Poland’s foreign policy.
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