Workers find 34 skeletons from decades ago in Moscow

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MOSCOW, Oct 4 (Reuters) Construction workers have found the remains of 34 bodies and a rusty pistol buried underneath a building on a street connecting the old KGB headquarters to Red Square, authorities said today.

Local media said the bodies could date from the 1930s when Josef Stalin's NKVD secret police shot scores of people in the deep, thick-walled basements of buildings near their headquarters. This period of political purges were known as the Great Terror and hundreds of thousands of people were murdered or simply disappeared.

Police who examined the bodies discovered bullet holes in the skulls, the Interfax news agency reported.

''The shots were fired at close range. The wounds and the posturing suggest that the workers discovered an execution room.

The bodies had been in the basement for at least 60 years,'' Interfax quoted a police source as saying.

Russian police confirmed the bodies had been found buried under the floor of a basement but declined to elaborate.

''Maybe they had been killed during Tsarist times or maybe they died of a deadly disease,'' a spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office, Sergei Baluchevsky, said.

The pistol found alongside the bodies dated from 1903, Buluchevsky said. A revolution overthrew Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.

Police cordoned off the house, part of a group of low-rise 19th century buildings along Nikolskaya Street, which runs from Red Square and the Kremlin to the Lubyanka -- the imposing headquarters of the Soviet and Russian secret police.

During Stalin's Great Terror, 1.7 million Soviet citizens were arrested between August 1937 and November 1938, of whom 818,000 were executed, according to human rights group Memorial.

REUTERS JK PM1614

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