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Associated Press

Wednesday, September 15, 1999; 3:27 p.m. EDT

Russians still in Denial

Poles Reject Moscow's Statement

By Andrzej Stylinski
Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Poland's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday protested a Russian statement denying that the 1939 Soviet invasion of eastern Poland was an "act of aggression."

In a move that threatened to strain Polish-Russian ties, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the former Soviet army was merely seizing territory as a buffer against any Nazi advance from occupied Poland.

Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said Friday's 60th anniversary of the invasion "is not the best moment to revive arguments, which we know from the language of the Stalinist (era) propaganda."

Western historians have long said that the former Soviet Union acted on a secret agreement with Nazi Germany when the Soviet army seized eastern Polish provinces 17 days after Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II. The so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact preceding the invasion is generally acknowledged to have called for the partition of Poland between the Nazis and Soviets.

After seizing the territory, the Soviets sent some 1.5 million Poles to labor camps. At least 15,000 Polish officers were killed by secret police.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski plans an unofficial visit on the anniversary Friday to the Russian cities of Katyn and Kharkov, where thousands of Polish officers executed under Stalin's regime are buried. Moscow officially acknowledged responsibility in 1990 for the Katyn massacre that followed Poland's partition.

Kwasniewski's top aide, Marek Siwiec, called the Russian statement about the Soviet invasion a "big mistake" and indicated Russian diplomacy acted in a "somewhat schizophrenic" way.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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