The International Herald Tribune reports:
Poland's president will make his first visit to Russia this week to honor the memory of thousands of Poles murdered by the Soviet secret police during World War II — but without plans to meet his counterpart, Vladimir Putin. President Lech Kaczynski and Defense Minister Aleksander Szczyglo planned to visit a cemetery in the Katyn forest near Smolensk, Russia, on Monday — the anniversary of the Red Army's invasion of Poland at the start of the war — presidential spokesman Marcin Rosolowski said, according to the Polish news agency PAP.
It will be Kaczynski's first visit since taking office nearly two years ago to neighboring Russia, with whom relations remain tense due to bitterness over Polish suffering at Soviet hands during the war and under communism. Lately tensions have been stoked by Poland's support for hosting a U.S. missile defense site, something Moscow says threatens its own security and could spark a new arms race. During his visit, Kaczynski will be received by a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the focus of the visit will be honoring the estimated 22,000 Poles murdered at Katyn. Kaczynski and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, remain deeply skeptical of Russia, and the visit Monday — with its focus on past atrocities — is unlikely to improve the strained ties.
The Soviet Union invaded Poland on Sept. 17, 1939, less than three weeks after Nazi Germany had invaded from the West. In April of the following year, the Polish officers were taken prisoner and killed by a shot to the back of the head in the Katyn forest and in other places. The Nazis discovered the mass graves during their march on Moscow in the fall of 1941, but Soviet propaganda blamed the deaths on Adolf Hitler and punished anyone speaking the truth with harsh prison terms. In 1990, Moscow admitted that dictator Josef Stalin's secret police were responsible.
Kaczynski's visit comes only days before the release of a movie about the massacre by the Oscar-winning Polish director Andrzej Wajda.UPDATE: Russia is now banning Poland from access to its files on Katyn, obviously seeking to cover Soviet/Russian blame for the atrocity.