Russia: No Survivors in Polish President's Crash



By: OMER SHACHNAI  
Published: April 10th 2010
in News » World

Lech Kaczynski
Pic: WikiMedia Commons

There were no survivors in the crash of a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski in Russia. The plane which was on its way from Poland to Russia crashed when approaching landing near the Russian city of Smolensk (western Russia). According to Russian emergency officials the President as well as 86 other passengers, including the President's wife and other Polish personnel were killed in the Presidential plane crash. A different report indicates that the plane was carrying at least 132 passengers and staff.

 

The President was on his way to Smolensk, in order to take part in events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police in Katyn Forest and elsewhere during World War II. The presidential plane was a Soviet-built Tupolev TU154M, at least 20 years old. The army chief of staff, General Franciszek Gagor, National Bank President Slawomir Skrzypek and Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremoer were on the passenger list. The Polish foreign ministry confirmed that Kaczynski and his wife were aboard the plane.

 

So far, investigations indicate that the plane encountered foggy weather and crashed about 1.5 kilometers outside Smolensk's landing field (Severny airport). "The Polish presidential plane did not make it to the runway while landing. Tentative findings indicate that it hit the treetops and fell apart," Sergei Anufriev said on state news channel Rossiya-24. The flight data recorders of the plane have not yet been located but experts were on the scene and the search for them was under way, ITAR-TASS said. "Nobody has survived the disaster," said the governor of the Smolensk region, where the crash took place about 11 a.m. (0700 GMT).

 

Meanwhile in Warsaw, Poland's capital, Prime Minister Donald Tusk called an extraordinary meeting of his cabinet. In Russia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev immediately appointed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the head of a commission to investigate the crash and sent Russia’s emergency situations minister, Sergei Shoigu, to the site. The crash occurred three days after Putin and his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, together participated in a memorial for the victims of the massacre at Katyn. The Putin-Tusk meeting there was seen as a huge symbolic advance in Russia’s thorny relations with Poland.

 

Kaczynski, 60, became president in December 2005 after defeating Tusk in that year's presidential vote. He was the twin brother of Poland's opposition leader, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Lech Kaczynski had said he would seek a second term in presidential elections this fall. According to the constitution, Bronislaw Komorowski will take over presidential duties.




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