WARSAW, Poland -- Polish intellectuals and Solidarity leaders, including Lech Walesa, Tuesday called on their Soviet counterparts to take a public stand on the murder of 15,000 Polish officers by Russian troops in 1940.
'This crime ... poisoned our mutual relations,' said the letter signed by 59 leading intellectuals and distributed to Western news agencies.
The mass graves of 4,500 Polish officers were discovered in the Katyn forest by German forces attacking the Soviet Union in 1941. An international commission set up by the Nazis to discredit Moscow said the crime was committed by the Russians.
The graves of the remaining 10,500 officers believed to be executed by Soviet forces were never found. Moscow never admitted responsibility for the murders and blamed the Nazis.
'Truth must be uttered loudly,' the letter said. 'These words are dictated by the debt of memory toward those who were murdered and a conviction that it is an indispensable condition for a radical change in the relations between our nations.
'We ask you to take a public stand about the Katyn crime,' it said.
Addressed to 55 Soviet intellectuals, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov and the poet Bulat Okudzava, the letter was distributed two days after Polish and Soviet historians completed a conference in Warsaw to fill in painful 'blank spots' in the relations between their countries since 1939, when the Russian army invaded Poland and sent millions of Poles to slave labor camps in the Soviet Union.
'Unfortunately, we did not record progress in explaining all the circumstances of the Katyn tragedy,' Polish historian Jarema Maciszewski was quoted by the Communist Party newspaper Trybuna Ludu as saying Monday.
'We have not given up finding additional documents (on Katyn),' he said.
A delegation of Poles attempted to deliver their letter to the Warsaw offices of the Soviet news agencies Tass and Novosti Monday, but were turned down.
'The Tass reporter said he could not transmit the letter to the Soviet media because he disagrees with its contents,' a source said.