MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday promised Poland that Russia would declassify secret files on the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet forces in World War II.
Medvedev made the vow to acting Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, in the latest symbol of entente between the countries since the death of Polish president Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in Russia last month.
"Work on the Katyn case will be continued on my direct order, including the declassification of materials," Medvedev said, according to Russian news agencies.
He also handed over to the Polish side 67 volumes of evidence from Russia's Katyn enquiry.
For decades, Moscow blamed the Katyn massacre on Nazi Germany, until Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev finally admitted in 1990 that the Polish officers had been executed by Stalin's NKVD secret police.
Parliament speaker Komorowski, who is acting head of state until a new president is chosen in elections, is in Moscow to take part in celebrations Sunday for the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
"The crime of Katyn, the lie of Katyn is a stumbling block (in relations) between our countries," said Komorowski.
"The truth of Katyn is a shared experience, a Polish and a Russian one. It should be a basis for developing relations between our countries," he added.
While Russia last month published archive material relating to the massacre on the Internet in a hugely symbolic gesture, key material is still believed to be locked away as top secret.
In 2004, Russian military prosecutors closed a long-running probe into Katyn and classified their files from the investigation, a move that strained ties between Warsaw and Moscow.
About 22,000 Polish officers were executed by the NKVD at Katyn, in western Russia, and a number of other sites in present-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in April and May 1940.
One of the documents posted online is a memorandum from Lavrenty Beria, the head of the NKVD, to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin proposing the thousands of Polish prisoners be shot. The document is personally signed by Stalin.
Ironically, Kaczynski was heading to Katyn for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre when his plane crashed in April, killing all 96 people aboard.
The crash prompted an unprecedented outpouring of grief in Russia and signs of a reconciliation between the two countries which have had often prickly relations since the collapse of Communism.
But there has been criticism in Poland over the pace of the inquiry into the Smolensk air crash and the opposition, led by Kaczynski's twin brother, said on Thursday it wanted Warsaw to take over the probe.
Medvedev assured Komorowski that the investigation would go "right to the end" and vowed that all its findings would be made public.
"The conclusions must be published and made known to the widest circles of the public," he said.
Russian investigators have said the pilots failed to follow instructions from Russian air traffic controllers warning about thick fog and telling the crew to land at another airport.
However one month after the disaster, investigators have yet to announce final conclusions about the cause.
"To find out absolutely all the details is an absolute imperative," a senior Russian diplomatic source said ahead of the talks.
© AFP 2013