: Six-year anniversary of the crash that killed Polish officials in Smolensk, Russia

16:43 Apr. 9, 2016

Six-year anniversary of the crash that killed Polish officials in Smolensk, Russia

Jaroslaw Kaczynski leader of ruling party Law and Justice Party attends a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 plane crash March 10, 2016. (AP Photo)

The investigation into the deadly accident that happened on April 10, 2010 is still ongoing

On April 10th, Poland will commemorate the victims of the deadly aircraft disaster. Six years have passed since top Polish government officials were killed in an airplane crash in a Russian city of Smolensk. All 96 passengers on board died in the catastrophe. Among the victims were the President of Poland Lech Kaczynski with his wife, the former President in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, 18 Members of Parliament and high-ranking officials.

They were flying to Russia to attend the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, a series of mass executions of Poles carried out by the Soviet Secret police in 1940. But as the aircraft was descending, it reportedly struck trees and crashed near the airport.

Russian Interstate Aviation Committee immediately concluded the cause to be the error of the Polish pilots. According to the 184-page final report, published by the institution on January 12, 2011, "the crew on board failed to operate the airplane in the given weather conditions."

Read also Smolensk crash: 'There were explosions on board of presidential Tu-154'

Polish officials claimed the report was "incomplete." Lech Kaczynski's brother went as far as calling it "a joke against Poland." Warsaw investigators, while agreeing with the Russian version, also put responsibility on the staff at the control tower of the Smolensk Airport. In a similar report by Poland, it is stated the lighting at the landing zone was "defective and incomplete," and that "air traffic controllers failed to provide crucial information for the pilots at the right time." Russian authorities repeatedly dismissed these accusations.

Read also Poland asks Russia for written explanation of Smolensk crash

In February 2016, Poland decided to resume the inquiry into the crash. The country's Minister of Defence Antoni Macierewicz signed a decision to set up a special committee which included engineers and foreign advisers. Later Macierewicz hinted the crash was a terrorist attack against Poland. However, the Minister avoided direct accusations against any specific country.

"What happened near Smolensk, was aimed at depriving Poland of its leadership. We were the first major victim of terrorism in modern conflict, which is unfolding before our eyes," said Macierewicz.

Russian officials reacted right away. They called Macierewicz's comment "unfounded and inadequate." "We suddenly have a new leader in the competition of the most absurd and foolish statements," posted on Twitter Vladimir Markin, a Russian Investigative committee representative. However, Kremlin refused to hand over the wreckage of the plane to the Polish side, "until the investigation is over."

Shortly after the investigation was resumed, rumours about the possible swaps of victims bodies surfaced in Polish mass media. According to Gazeta Polska, Russia could have replaced the remains of several persons who died in the crash. The news agency claims, Warsaw officials at the time were informed about the replacement.

Six years after the crash, Poland hopes the new committee will be able to uncover the truth of what happened in Smolensk. The investigation is extended until October 10, 2016. In the meantime, a Polish delegation is expected to arrive in Smolensk to attend the 76th anniversary of Katyn massacre.


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