A government commission has found that thousands of human remains buried in a mass grave near Kiev were those of victims killed during Stalinist repressions, not by invading German soldiers, Tass reported Friday.
The conclusion supports the testimony of elderly witnesses in the nearby village of Bykovnia who said they saw trucks that dripped blood rumbling to Darnitsa Forest in the 1930s, before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 during World War II.
Earlier government estimates said the site contains from 6,000 to 68,000 bodies, but unofficial estimates said bodies of up to 300,000 people were stacked in the grave.
The villagers broke five decades of terrified silence to accuse Josef Stalin’s secret police after the Ukrainian government erected a monument in May, 1988, blaming German occupiers for the crime. The villagers forced Ukrainian authorities in December to establish the commission, saying three previous investigations had covered up the truth.
The report from Tass, the official Soviet news agency, did not mention the earlier investigations.
Viktor Kulik, head of the investigating commission, told Tass that investigators found family names engraved on some objects in the grave.
“Examination of the archives later confirmed that the victims were ‘people’s enemies’ charged in the 1930s with counterrevolutionary and nationalist activity, espionage and conspiracy,” Tass said.
“Official confirmation has been given to the version that in the Darnitsa Forest near the village of Bykovnia outside the Ukrainian capital of Kiev are buried victims of the repressions of the 1930s,” Tass said.
Western historians estimate 20 million Soviets were killed under Stalin, particularly during the Great Purge of the late 1930s, but Soviet officials ignored the dark side of Stalin for most of the past 50 years.
The examination of Stalin’s crimes begun briefly under Nikita S. Khrushchev was revived under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost , or openness.
Western historians also blame the Soviets for the massacre of 4,250 Polish officers unearthed in 1943 in a mass grave 310 miles away in the Katyn Forest. Earlier this year, Polish authorities said Stalin’s forces killed the officials, although official Soviet commissions have blamed the Germans.