Joseph Stalin’s grandson, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Channel One television host Vladimir Pozner, who maintains that Stalin authorized the killing of thousands of Polish POWs in the 1940 Katyn massacre, Dzhugashvili’s lawyer said on Friday.
During his TV show broadcast on October 24, Pozner said that “several thousand innocent Polish officers were shot and killed [in Katyn].”
In fact, more than 20,000 Polish officers, police and civilians taken prisoner during the 1939 partitioning of Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were executed by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, in Katyn, near the Western Russian city of Smolensk.
During his show, Pozner described the killing of the officers as a “heinous crime” that took place “on [NKVD chief Lavrenty] Beria’s recommendation, and certainly with Stalin’s sanction.”
Dzhugashvili has demanded that the host refute his statements, lawyer Sergei Strygin said.
“My client believes that the information that Stalin approved the shooting in Katyn of several thousand innocent Polish officers is false and offends the honor and dignity of this grandfather,” he said.
Dzhugashvili has also dismissed Pozner’s “statements that the Soviet authorities committed a heinous crime and that all Polish officers – each and all – who were captured by the Red Army starting from September 17, 1939, were shot dead,” the lawyer said.
The Soviet Union always blamed the massacre on the Nazis, saying the killings took place in 1941, when the territory was in German hands. However, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev formally admitted in 1990 that the executions took place around 1940, and were carried out by the NKVD.
In the 1990s, Russia handed over to Poland copies of documents from top-secret File No.1, which placed the blame squarely on the Soviet Union. In November last year, the lower house of Russia’s parliament approved a declaration recognizing the Katyn massacre as a crime committed by Joseph Stalin’s regime.
Pozner’s statements during his Monday’s show have prompted a row between the host and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
In an interview last week, Lavrov said Russia was “ready to consider an absolutely natural request [by the massacred Poles’ relatives] on the exoneration of these people,” adding that the issue “should be resolved so as to satisfy the families of the Polish victims and at the same time keep within the bounds of Russian law.”
Relatives of the Polish POWs are involved in an ongoing lawsuit against Russia over the Katyn case, which was closed in Russia in 2004 without the victims’ exoneration.
During his show, Pozner criticized the delay in exonerating the Poles, saying that statements from the Russian authorities that they were “ready to consider” the issue sounded “very strange.”
Lavrov has disputed that characterization, saying he was quoted out of context.