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Memo: Poland's Jaruzelski Wanted Soviet Invasion

General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in December 1981.
WARSAW (Reuters) -- Poland's last communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, wanted Soviet troops to invade his country in 1981 to help crush striking workers, according to a document published today by the state archives institute.

Jaruzelski, now 86, has always insisted that he declared martial law in December 1981 precisely to avert the kind of Soviet military intervention that had crushed pro-democracy supporters in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Lech Walesa, Jaruzelski's nemesis whose pro-democracy Solidarity trade union finally overthrew communism in 1989, said today the general should stand trial for treason if the claims in the document were verified.

The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) published on its website a memo it attributed to a Soviet general, citing comments by Jaruzelski days before he imposed martial law in 1981.

"If [worker unrest] were to spread around the whole country, then you [the Soviet Union] would have to help us. We would not manage alone," the memo quoted Jaruzelski as saying.

After his Soviet interlocuter said Polish troops should be able to handle the protesters unaided, Jaruzelski was quoted as saying there were no soldiers available in some large cities.

As well as supervising Poland's communist-era files, the IPN is empowered to pursue legal action against those it considers to have committed "crimes against the Polish nation."

Critics accuse the IPN, which has links with the right-wing opposition, of conducting politically motivated "witch hunts" rather than focusing on objective historical research.

Walesa, 66, has also clashed with the IPN over books it has published alleging he spied for the communist secret police in the 1970s, a claim he strongly denies.

Jaruzelski already faces charges of committing other "communist crimes" in a long-running trial often delayed by his poor health.

Defending his decision to declare martial law on the grounds that it had prevented a Soviet intervention, Jaruzelski told the court last year: "Martial law was evil, but it was a far lesser evil than what would have happened without it."

Under martial law, which lasted until 1983, the authorities imposed a curfew, severely restricted people's freedom of movement, jailed hundreds and banned the Solidarity trade union.