Skip to comments.Soviet leadership ordered John Paul II hit: Italian commission
Posted on 03/03/2006 4:25:31 AM PST by xzins
Soviet leadership ordered John Paul II hit: Italian commission
MOSCOW : Leaders of the former Soviet Union ordered the assassination bid on Pope John Paul II in 1981, the head of an Italian parliamentary commission announced.
But the post-Soviet intelligence service of President Vladimir Putin immediately dismissed the allegation as an absurdity.
Italian Senator Paolo Guzzanti said the findings of the commission showed "beyond all reasonable doubt" that Moscow's military secret service, the GRU, was responsible for the shooting as the late pope greeted pilgrims in St Peter's Square.
The assertion, for years a favourite of conspiracy theorists in Italy, reopened old Cold War wounds.
"This commission believes, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the leaders of the USSR took the initiative to eliminate Pope Karol Wojtyla and that they communicated this decision to the military secret service ....to commit a crime of unique gravity, without equal in modern history," said a draft made available to journalists.
The conclusions were contained in a chapter of the report by the Mitrokhin Commission, set up by the Italian parliament to investigate Cold War secrets revealed by Vasili Mitrokhin, a Soviet archivist who defected to the West in 1992.
Russia's top-secret military intelligence service dismissed as "absolutely absurd" the accusations that Soviet agents were involved.
"All affirmations about any involvement of Soviet intelligence services, including the military secret service, in the attempted assassination of the pope are absolutely absurd and have nothing to do with reality," a spokesman for the service was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
Turkish hitman Ali Agca shot and seriously wounded John Paul II in St Peter's Square on May 13, 1981.
Agca, who was overpowered seconds after the attack, was put on trial in July 1981 and sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy, but freed in June 2000 after being pardoned by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
Despite rumours linking Agca with the Bulgarian secret services, and by extension the Russian KGB intelligence service, the reasons for the attack have always been shrouded in mystery.
Historians have long held that John Paul II's support for the Solidarity-inspired democracy movement in Poland was a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union, and the late pope has been credited with helping to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Italy put three Bulgarians and three Turks on trial in 1986 on charges that they had orchestrated the murder bid, but they were acquitted when prosecutors were unable to prove a link with Agca.
The commission report now concludes that one of the Bulgarians acquitted in 1986 for lack of evidence, Sergei Antonov, was indeed in St Peter's Square at the time of the shooting, standing close to Agca.
A photograph purporting to show Antonov in the crowd, sporting a moustache and heavy glasses, was printed in Italian newspapers Thursday.
A lawyer for Antonov - head of Bulgaria's national airline in Rome - had previously argued a case of mistaken identity, but the Commission said police scientists had confirmed the man as Antonov.
The commission said the Soviets had "used the Bulgarian agents as cover against possible failure."
The Russians had also used the East German secret service, the Stasi, to spread "disinformation and media poisoning," which Guzzanti said had been achieved with excellent results.
The full parliamentary commission, which has yet to adopt the report, is due to meet next week. - AFP/ch
AFP text, photos, graphics and logos shall not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. AFP shall not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any AFP content, or for any actions taken in consequence.
ROME It has persisted as one of the most mysterious cases of international intrigue in recent times: Who shot the pope?
A committee of Italy's Parliament investigating the 1981 attempt to assassinate John Paul II released its conclusion Thursday that "beyond any reasonable doubt" the Soviet Union ordered the attack that seriously wounded the pope as he greeted crowds in St. Peter's Square.
The Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, was long ago condemned in the shooting and served 19 years in jail. But for whom he worked has never been definitely established. His own confessions have been all over the map; he has variously implicated the Soviets, the Bulgarians and others.
Rumors about the intellectual authors of the attack have circulated for years, but pinning it directly and formally on the Soviet Union would be a first.
Sen. Paolo Guzzanti, president of the parliamentary committee, told reporters that the Soviet military intelligence agency, the GRU, "took the initiative to eliminate" the pope. According to Italian media, the report says the Soviets had decided that John Paul, a fervent anti-communist, had become dangerous in his outspoken support for the Solidarity protest movement in his native Poland. Solidarity's activities eventually helped precipitate the fall of communism there in 1989.
In those Cold War years of intrigue and deception, the shooting of the pope was tangled in a web of secret agents, proxy gunmen and the life-or-death struggle over who would dominate the world.
Committee staff members said the report was based on evidence presented at a host of Italian trials through the years connected with the shooting, including one that probed the Turkish mafia and another the purported involvement of the Bulgarian secret service.
In addition, France's noted anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, reportedly shared evidence with the Italians that sprang from the prosecution of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, alias Carlos the Jackal, the notorious terrorist held in France since his capture in Africa in 1994.
The committee also used new technology to reexamine a photograph that the report concludes shows Sergei Antonov, a Bulgarian airline executive, in St. Peter's Square near Agca at the time of the shooting. The man in the photograph has a heavy mustache and is wearing glasses, as though in disguise.
Antonov was one of several Bulgarians put on trial in 1986 for allegedly orchestrating the shooting; he and the others were acquitted. Placing him at the scene would bolster claims that the Bulgarian secret service hired Agca and that it was working at the behest of the Soviets, the Italians contend. It has long been theorized that the Bulgarians were acting as agents for the Soviets in a murder plot against the pope.
Reacting to the new Italian report, officials in Moscow and Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, issued strong denials. Boris Labusov, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said the accusation was "completely absurd," according to a dispatch from the Interfax news agency quoted by Associated Press.
Italy's findings constitute an important addition to the historical record. But it seemed unlikely that the report would have any effect on investigations closed long ago.
The committee's report must be approved by the full Parliament next week.
If that happens, it would constitute the first time an official body has placed blame for the assassination attempt on the Soviets.
However, a minority report by opposition members of Parliament is expected to be released at the same time that may disagree with some of Guzzanti's findings. Other participants in the probe believed that the information they gathered was less conclusive than Guzzanti indicated, a source on the committee said. Among other things, the committee interviewed prosecutors and judges from earlier cases.
"All the judges that we heard from left more questions than certainties," said Nicola Biondo, a committee staff researcher.
Guzzanti, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia (Go, Italy) party, said he launched the new investigation after John Paul's last book before his death spoke of the assassination attempt and his conviction that someone beyond Agca had "masterminded and commissioned" the attack.
So, what to do about it?
Comment on the timeliness of the Italian commission? :>)
Just in time for......
I wonder why the Russians are adamant in their denial. Could it be that the planners are still in positions of power someplace in the new Russia?
No suprise with this news. I also believe they were in on the Kennedy assassination using their proxy Oswald and maybe some others.
Tom Clancy had it right all along.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.