Sunday, April 10, 2016

Polish Plane Crash Anniversary Beset by Questions, Discontent: Some top officials suspect crash was an assassination arranged by Moscow

The Wall Street Journal
By Martin M. Sobczyk
April 10, 2016 10:45 a.m. ET

WARSAW—Poland marked the sixth anniversary of the airplane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others in Russia on Sunday, in state ceremonies organized for the first time by Mr. Kaczynski’s political base, whose top officials have called the accident an attempt to assassinate the anti-Kremlin leader.

The late president’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, laid a wreath in front of the Presidential Palace in the historic center of Warsaw. Six years earlier, tens of thousands of people gathered there after the Polish government’s Russian-made Tu-154 airplane crashed on approach to a provincial airport in western Russia killing 96 people.

A number of plaques were unveiled on Sunday that the governing camp said were only able to be installed in front of official buildings now that political opponents had been sidelined.

The surviving Mr. Kaczynski leads the socially conservative Law and Justice party that has governed Poland since November. The party’s candidate, Andrzej Duda, won the presidency in May last year.

The crash of the presidential jet in Smolensk, Russia, has led to deep divisions in Poland, with Mr. Kaczynski’s party accusing the previous government of negligence in preparations for the flight.

Mr. Kaczynski’s political opponents, as well as official reports in Poland and Russia, have blamed pilot error for the crash in thick fog, less than a mile short of the runway of the dilapidated Smolensk airport.

Mr. Kaczynski’s party has disputed those findings. It says investigations in Poland and Russia overlooked evidence, including the possibility that the airport’s instrument landing system was off and that the plane might have disintegrated midair.

On Sunday, Mr. Duda, a former aide to the late president, laid flowers at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, where the remains of Mr. Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, are interred.

“Time heals emotions and changes them but the emotions are vivid,” Mr. Duda said after emerging from the burial chambers of Wawel Cathedral. “It was a shock to all of us and emotions persist.”

The crash of the government jet plunged Poland into deep mourning, initially uniting the nation before becoming one of the most divisive issues in recent years. The previous centrist administration of the Civic Platform party has largely concurred with the findings in Moscow, which pointed to pilot error, while the current governing camp has, for years, insisted other possible reasons for the crash were ignored.

Poland’s current government has referred to the late Mr. Kaczynski as “a fallen president,” suggesting he was killed in battle rather than in an accident.

President Kaczynski was a staunch critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin who rallied crowds in Tbilisi in 2008 during Russia’s war with Georgia. Mr. Kaczynski said at the time Russia had designs on “Georgia today, Ukraine tomorrow, the Baltic States the day after tomorrow, and perhaps later my country.”

Some, including Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, have openly talked about the crash as part of a push by Russia to regain its superpower status.

“What happened near Smolensk was aimed at depriving Poland of its leadership,” Mr. Macierewicz said in March.

“Russia’s military, political and economic expansion, which has long been said to have replaced tanks with gas and oil pipelines, is being accompanied by a long-developed and practiced rule of state terrorism,” he said.

Russia’s government spokesman said the Polish defense minister’s remarks were “unfounded and biased.”

Mr. Macierewicz this year created a team to look into the 2010 airplane crash again.

The late president and his entourage were on their way to commemorate the Katyn Massacre of 1940, executions by the Soviet secret police of about 22,000 Polish army officers during World War II on orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

NTSB Identification: ENG10RA025
Accident occurred Saturday, April 10, 2010 in Smolensk, Russia
Aircraft: TUPOLEV TU154, registration:
Injuries: 89 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On April 10, 2010, about 0656 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a Tupolev Tu-154M, Tail Number 101, operated by the Polish Air Force as flight PLF101, crashed during approach to the Military Aerodrom Smolensk "Severnyi", Russia. All 89 passengers and 7 flightcrew were killed, including the President of Poland. The airplane was destroyed by impact and postcrash fire.

Following the accident, the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Poland concluded a bilateral agreement that the regional international independent safety investigation organization, the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), would conduct the investigation. Although the airplane was operated as a "state" aircraft, by the mutual agreement, the investigation was conducted following the guidance provided in ICAO Annex 13 Standards and Recommended Practices. As the United States was state of design and manufacture for the TAWS and FMS units, the NTSB was requested to support the investigation activity. 

For more information on the accident investigation, contact MAK at mak@mak.ru

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