The two presidents also visited the Katyn memorial complex, where they laid wreaths at the Russian and Polish memorials.
Earlier in the day, a meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Bronislaw Komorowski took place.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President and I met today in Smolensk, and naturally, I was happy as always to see him. But we had a special reason for meeting today – it concerns the tragedy that happened a year ago near Smolensk, the tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and everyone who was with him in that plane.
This is a very sad, aching tragedy; it not only rattled an enormous number of people in Poland, but touched our nation as well. During that time, we truly understood what a terrible tragedy had occurred, and tried to do everything so that our Polish friends would see that we were mourning alongside them. We wanted to show we were ready to do everything to determine the reasons for the tragedy and carry out a high-quality investigation, not to mention expressing our genuine sympathy.
And even though a year has passed, we understand that this is still a very difficult and very painful memory.
As a demonstration of the sincerity of the feelings we felt then and now, we spontaneously had the idea to build a monument to immortalise the memory of the victims. Today, I would like to announce that Mr President and I agreed to create a special international team that will work on the design of this memorial. Mr President and I will provide our support and promote this project.
Recently, a great deal of attention has been given by the media to the investigation of this tragedy. Everyone is aware of Russia’s position. The technical evaluation that was conducted by the Interstate Aviation Committee is finished, and its results are known. Naturally, they can be interpreted in different ways, but nevertheless, this work is complete. As for the investigation and the criminal and procedural aspects of the tragedy, the investigation continues; in accordance with current laws, the investigation needs to come to its own conclusions, which should of course be clear and made public.
“We are ready to do everything to determine the reasons for the tragedy and carry out a high-quality investigation. The investigation continues; it needs to come to its own conclusions, which should of course be clear and made public.”
In any case, what is being done now should be finished, simply because that is the duty of the investigative and government agencies working on it.
Unfortunately, we are bound by other moments in our shared history, which are linked to Smolensk and require very thorough consultations. I am referring to the Katyn tragedy. Here, nobody should have any doubt that the Government of Russia, and I as President of the nation, gave comprehensive assessments for why this occurred, and assessments of who was responsible for this enormous crime. The leaders of the Soviet government during that period are responsible for this crime. Attempts to put forward any other versions of these events are not supported by any historical documents or moral considerations. In this regard, the position of the Russian Government remains as before.
At the same time, we must complete the handover of corresponding criminal case files; we have stepped up this process recently in accordance with my instructions. Another set of documents was handed over just a short while ago to our Polish colleagues. The State Duma made corresponding commentary and statements. Currently, we are also working on some other judicial aspects related to the Katyn tragedy.
I feel that all of this serves the interests of future Russian-Polish relations. And for future’s sake, we must turn this page; but in doing so, we must make sure that it remains in the memories of the Russian and Polish people.
Our relations are not confined only to sorrowful events and mournful pages in history. Recently, Mr President and I have done a lot to bring our relations to a qualitatively new level. I warmly recall my visit to Warsaw, the friendliness and hospitality that Mr President and his colleagues showed me. The visit resulted in some very positive changes that occurred in Russian-Polish economic and social relations.
In just the last year, our turnover has grown by 25 per cent. We have a whole set of major projects being implemented by our nations’ companies; today, Mr President and I once again discussed the need to intensify cooperation between small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of any market economy.
Youth contacts between our nations are exceedingly important as well. They should not be held hostage to ideological stereotypes or purely historical ideas; they should look toward the future. Thus, it is imperative to support contacts between young people as much as possible, through various forums and venues where they can exchange not only their views on the development of Russian-Polish relations, but also prepare for how they will advance our cooperation in ten, twenty, or thirty years.
I would like to say that Russia is ready to strengthen all-around partnership with Poland. I expect that together with Mr President, we will be able to do a great deal to develop bilateral ties between our nations and between our peoples.
President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski: I want to say that I am happy with this meeting with President Medvedev. This is all the more so as we are meeting in Smolensk today to mark such an uncommon occasion: the first anniversary of the crash of the presidential plane one year ago, and also the 71st anniversary of the Katyn crime.
It is particularly important that the President and I are together at the ceremony marking the end of the year commemorating Katyn. This commemoration year was extended after the Smolensk tragedy. That we are both here today is especially important. Together we will lay flowers and wreaths at the site where the victims of Stalinist crimes lie buried. These victims were Russian and Polish. This is of great significance for both countries, and this commemorative year has seen considerable progress in breaking down the lies about the Katyn crime and starting to form a common view of those events.
I remind you that our countries’ prime ministers met this year at the burial site of the military officers killed. Today our countries’ presidents are meeting here. The State Duma’s remarkable declaration on the Katyn crime was also a very important event. Work continues too, as the President informed us, to declassify documents relating to the Katyn crime.
We see and emphasise the progress achieved on this question. I agree that the logical conclusion to this process would be to declassify all information concerning Katyn. Poland also wants to close the Katyn chapter in the great chronicle of Polish-Russian relations. But before we close this chapter we need to read it to the end. We also hope to see the full rehabilitation of the Katyn victims. The State Duma’s declaration essentially signifies the victims’ political rehabilitation, but we also hope for the victims legal rehabilitation too.
“We must complete the handover of criminal case files [related to the Katyn tragedy]. For future’s sake, we must turn this page; but in doing so, we must make sure that it remains in the memories of the Russian and Polish people.”
We are pleased to be able to say that we have fulfilled the agreements we reached in Warsaw to erect a joint memorial in memory of the victims of the plane crash near Smolensk. You can see the details on this joint memorial project on the Polish Ministry of Culture’s website and the Presidential Office’s website. I draw your attention to the fact that the content of the memorial’s text will be in the Polish and Russian languages, and approved by both countries. This is especially important in the context of events of these past days.
I also confirm that both presidents want to see the prosecutors’ investigation into the plane crash’s causes reach a swift conclusion. What the presidents can do here is to provide their complete support to ensure that all of the relevant documents and evidence needed for the investigation are handed over as quickly as possible. This applies to both countries. I stress that in this situation both countries are in the position of at once requesting and possessing the relevant information. You know that Poland is waiting to receive the original records obtained from the flight recorders.
I emphasise too that we will not wait until all complicated matters have been settled before taking resolute steps aimed at improving Polish-Russian relations and cooperation. We are establishing centres for Polish-Russian dialogue and harmony with this goal in mind. I signed the instruction on this on April 7. The Polish-Russian Public Forum pursues the same objective. I am sure that we will continue to develop other forms of cooperation too in the future, including youth exchanges and development of our economic relations.
Once again, I want to say that all of my contacts with President Medvedev always produce concrete results. Common resolute will, building good bilateral relations, and settling the specific issues before us is the only sure recipe for success in achieving reconciliation between our two countries.