Updated at 17:39,28-11-2020

List of Belarusian camps where Polish army officers could have been taken by NKVD handed over to Poland

By Zakhar Shcharbakow, BelaPAN

A copy of a report identifying the Belarusian prisoner of war camps where Polish army officers could have been brought at the beginning of World War II has been provided to Polish authorities by Belarus’ Committee for State Security (KGB), Maciej Korczynski, spokesman for Poland’s Internal Security Agency, told reporters on Friday.

According to Mr. Korczynski, representatives of the KGB shared the report with Marek Biernacki, secretary of state in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, and Dariusz Luczak, head of Poland’s Internal Security Agency, “as an act of goodwill.”

The Byelorussian government says in the report, addressed to the chief of the Soviet secret police NKVD, Lavrentiy Beria, that the captured Poles could have been sent to prisoner of war camps in what are now the village of Arekhava in the Malaryta district, Brest region; Stowbtsy, Minsk region; the village of Tsimkavichy in the Kapyl district, Minsk region; and Zhytkavichy, Homyel region. The camps could simultaneously hold up to 10,000 people.

The report identifies the individuals who were responsible for the operation. The detainees were apparently expected to be transferred to the Kozelsk camp in Russia’s Kaluga province.

The document, which will be stored in Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, may help Polish authorities find the so-called "Belarusian Katyn List." The list is believed to contain the names of 3,870 officers who were put to death by NKVD in the territory of modern Belarus as part of the so-called Katyn massacre, the execution of nearly 22,000 of Polish soldiers in different parts of the Soviet Union following its invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Experts suggest that some of the executed Poles were buried at Kurapaty, a Stalin-era massacre site just outside Minsk.

In an interview with the Belarusian private newspaper Novy Chas, veteran opposition politician Vintsuk Vyachorka, who is a member of a group campaigning for the conservation of Kurapaty, played down the publication of the report, described by Polish media outlets as an “unprecedented step of cooperation with Belarus.” Belarusian authorities are using the the report to their own advantage amid political and economic difficulties, or else they would have made the document available to Poland a long time ago, he said.

Mr. Vyachorka suggested that Belarusian authorities were withholding other important archival material to gain political dividends in the future.

Mr. Vyachorka pointed out that the best show of "goodwill" would be complete disclosure about Kurapaty and other Stalin-era massacre sites in Belarus. “Then both we and the Polish would definitely learn where our killed ancestors lie,” he said.

When asked by a Polish journalist in January 2013 about the Belarusian Katyn List and the possibility of excavating Kurapaty to find the remains of Polish soldiers, Mr. Lukashenka reiterated that no Polish army officers had been executed by the NKVD in Belarus.

"Pay money if something is of interest to you," Mr. Lukashenka replied. "Poles are no strangers to us. Pay money, we will carry out excavations where you find necessary and answer your question."

Mr. Lukashenka said that Polish experts would not be allowed to dig up mass graves in Kurapaty. "We don’t go to your country to do digging and you should not come to our country," he said. However, he said, Polish reporters are welcome to provide coverage of such excavations.

While speaking at a news conference in Minsk in December 2011, Mr. Lukashenka claimed that after studying the country’s entire archival records, authorities concluded that not a single Pole had been executed in the territory of Belarus in 1939 and 1940.