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ROME — An Italian parliamentary commission has concluded "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II, the first time an official body has blamed the Kremlin for the failed assassination.
The draft report said the pope was considered a threat to the Soviet bloc because of his support for the Solidarity labor movement in his native Poland. Solidarity was the first free trade union in communist Eastern Europe.
The Italian report said Soviet military intelligence — not the KGB — was responsible.
Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation "absurd."
"All assertions of any kind of participation in the attempt on the pope's life by Soviet special services, including foreign intelligence, are completely absurd," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The commission report said Moscow was alarmed because "Poland was the main military base of the Warsaw Pact, its main supply lines and troop concentrations were there."
"This commission believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leaders of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate the pope ... ," the document said.
The draft has no bearing on any judicial investigations, which have long been closed. The commission will consider Tuesday whether to approve the report in its final form.
The report also said a photograph shows that Sergei Antonov, a Bulgarian man acquitted of involvement in the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt, was in St. Peter's Square when the pontiff was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca.
The Bulgarian secret service was allegedly working for Soviet military intelligence, but the Italian court held the evidence was insufficient to convict the Bulgarians in the plot.
Antonov's lawyer, Giuseppe Consolo, said the photograph was a case of mistaken identity. He said the man in the photo came forward during the investigation and was a U.S. tourist.
Agca, a Turk, has changed his story often, and investigators said it was never clear who he was working for. He initially blamed the Soviets.
In Bulgaria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimiter Tsanchev said the case was closed with the Italian court decision in March 1986.
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