Polish leader honours dead at Russia massacre site

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KATYN, Russia, Sep 17 (Reuters) Russia and Poland should not dwell on past grievances, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said today when he visited the forest where Soviet secret police executed thousands of Poles during World War Two.

Kaczynski spent 1-1/2 hours touring a memorial complex at Katyn, a clearing in a forest in western Russia where Polish officers taken prisoner were shot in the head and thrown into pits in 1940.

Katyn remains a thorn in relations between Moscow and Poland, and the two countries are locked in a trade dispute and are at odds over a US plan for a missile defence shield.

On his first visit to Russia, Kaczynski said the wartime executions were ''an act of genocide'' and absolved modern-day Russia of any residual responsibility.

''Today we must commemorate them, we must remember them -- and we shall remember them. Historical memory is extremely important -- both of good and of evil. But this does not mean that we intend only to live this memory,'' he said.

''Of those who committed crimes at Katyn, hardly any are still alive. Those who govern Russia and Poland today were, as far as they were alive then, very young children and do not bear any responsibility for events that took place there.

''We have a democratic Poland and we have a new Russia -- there is no more Soviet Union, no more communist totalitarianism,'' said Kaczynski.

The visit took place on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.

''We have thus to live in the future ... and to the past we must look calmly, with balance, but also with regard for the truth,'' the Polish president said.

Kaczynski, who was accompanied by his wife and laid a wreath at the memorial, said Poland wanted good relations with all its neighbours.

His trip was short and low-key with no high-level meetings with Russian officials. Russia was represented at the Katyn wreath-laying ceremony by the regional governor and President Vladimir Putin's local representative.


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