Bones uncovered on the outskirts of Russia's Pacific port of Vladivostok belong to hundreds of victims of Stalinist purges executed by the NKVD secret police, municipal officials and experts said on Thursday.
City authorities said last month that at least 495 skeletons -- many with head gunshot wounds -- and 3.5 tonnes of bones had been unearthed from the mass grave by workmen building a road.
"The theory that the uncovered remains belong to the victims of repressions is confirmed," Vladivostok's city administration said in a statement.
Millions of Soviet citizens were executed by secret police or died in forced agricultural collectivisation and Gulag labour camps during Stalin's rule from the 1920s until his death in 1953. The peak of Stalin-era repression, known as The Great Terror, was in 1937-38.
But many Russians still treasure memories of Stalin's era, saying the iron-fisted leader industrialised the illiterate peasant nation, defeated Nazism in World War Two and left the Soviet Union with a nuclear bomb.
The region's forensic experts said the skeletons belong mainly to men executed between 25 and 35 years old. They were killed "more than 50 but less than 100 years ago", with 9-millimeter bullets shot from pistols routinely used by NKVD officers, the experts said.
Municipal officials added: "According to the law, a criminal case cannot be launched due to the expiry of the limitation period. A decision on the date and place of a new burial will be taken in the near future."
Yaroslav Livansky, the head of a group of volunteers who helped excavate the site, said the victims had been put on their knees and killed in cold blood with shots fired at the back of the head.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 15 Temmuz 2010, 17:18