Russian parliament condemns Stalin for Katyn massacre

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Russia's lower house of parliament has condemned Joseph Stalin by name for the mass execution of Poles at Katyn during World War II.

The Duma declared that the Soviet dictator and other Soviet officials had ordered the "Katyn crime" in 1940.

The statement, which comes weeks before a Russian presidential visit to Poland, was welcomed in Warsaw.

In a stormy debate, Communist MPs opposed the declaration, some seeking to deny Soviet guilt.

Soviet propaganda sought for decades to portray the massacre as the work of the Nazis, who overran Katyn after invading the USSR in 1941.

The truth was finally acknowledged in 1990, in the dying days of Soviet power, but the issue has continued to cloud relations between Russia and Poland.

The Duma said it hoped for "the beginning of a new stage in relations" with Poland "based on democratic values". Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is set to visit the country early next month.

Grzegorz Schetyna, Speaker of Poland's Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, described the Duma declaration as a "good step and an important sign"....

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