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Wojciech Jaruzelski dies aged 90

General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s last Communist leader, has died aged at the age of 90 after a long illness, Polish media say.

Wojciech Jaruzelski led Poland from 1981, when he declared martial law and ordered the arrest of the pro-democracy Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

He lifted martial law two years later and after growing unrest was forced to negotiate with Solidarity in 1989.

General Wojciech Jaruzelski led Poland from 1981 to 1990

General Wojciech Jaruzelski led Poland from 1981 to 1990

He had been in ill health for some time.

Lech Walesa said that a “great man from a generation of betrayers has gone”.

Wojciech Jaruzelski fought in a Polish unit of the Russian army during World War Two and rose up the military ranks after the war to become chief “political officer” of Poland’s armed forces.

He was defense minister at the time of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, in which Polish soldiers took part.

Wojciech Jaruzelski denied ordering the fatal shooting of dozens of shipyard workers in the northern cities of Gdansk and Gdynia in 1971, for which he was later put on trial.

He was also tried in 2008 by Poland’s post-Communist authorities for his December 1981 decision to impose martial law. Tanks rolled on to the streets and thousands of opposition activists were arrested overnight.

Dozens of people died in the military crackdown, which the general insisted he ordered to avert invasion by Moscow.

His trial was suspended in 2011 after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Wojciech Jaruzelski resigned as president in 1990 and was succeeded by Lech Walesa.

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