Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polish President Kaczynski Reported Dead in Plane Crash near Smolensk

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife were aboard the Polish equivalent of "Air Force One" enroute to Smolensk when the plane crashed. Most reports indicate 87 were killed though early reports did not indicate whether there were survivors. Russian media, however, was first to report there were no survivors:
Russian media is cited with infomration that 87 people were killed in the crash, and there are no survivors. According to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, the plane crashed 10:56 am Moscow time. Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said it had been flying from Moscow to Smolensk, but had no details on the identities of those killed.

Kaczynski was due to visit Smolensk to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when Soviet troops killed thousands of Poles.

Breaking now Polish media confirms: Kaczynski reported dead along with up to 130 others:
The plane reportedly struck trees as it approached the airport in the western Russian city and caught fire. The flames have since been extinguished. Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the crash, which was recorded at 10:50 am (0650 GMT).

On board were also Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish president in exile, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, vice-marshal of parliament, Wladyslaw Stasiak, head of the president's chancellery, and Janusz Kurtyka, head of the Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates Nazi and Soviet crimes against Poles, reported the Polish Press Agency PAP.

Planned ceremonies in Katyn were called off. Attendees said they would instead pray for the victims of the plane crash.

"This is on an unimaginable scale," said Wojciech Olejniczak, a member of the European Parliament, on TVN 24.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk called an emergency meeting in Warsaw.

Kaczynski was expected to attend a service commemorating the Katyn Massacre which was a source of ongoing tensions between Russia and Poland. The service, as reported above, was called off. Putin had attended a service the previous day with Prime Minister Tusk of Poland. Putin's attendance at the ceremony created controversy and backlash from Russia's Communist Party. There was great hope among Poles Putin's attendance would bring some resolution between Poland and Russia:
Russia’s Communist Party chastised Mr. Putin on Wednesday for “going to Katyn to apologize.” In a statement on its Web site, the party said, “You can apologize as much as you want about the so-called Soviet guilt, but no one can hide the fact of German responsibility for the shootings of Polish soldiers.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Putin fell short of issuing an official apology, as some in Poland had hoped. Russia’s failure to declare the killings war crimes and allow Polish historians access to all the documents on the massacre has also rankled many Poles. Mr. Putin did condemn the “cynical lies that have blurred the truth about the Katyn shootings,” adding, however, that “it would also be a lie and manipulation to place the blame for these crimes on the Russian people.”

Russians have been angered by Polish attempts to equate the Katyn murders and other atrocities carried out by Red Army soldiers in Poland during World War II with Nazi crimes.
Spiegel Online has a roundup of coverage of the meaning of the ceremony the two countries from a German perspective.

Needless to say, thoughts and prayers are with the people of Poland and the families of those lost in this tragedy. The implications of the crash are likely to be profound for the Polish people. I will update this report with news as it becomes available.

Update:  I found a picture online of the tail portion of the plane.
There were numerous high ranking officials aboard the plane as mentioned above.  A fuller list can be found here.

Amusing Bunni has first on site video of the crash site.  Pat Dollard "Much Of The Pro-West Political Establishment” Of Poland Killed In Russia
Conspiracy theories in the discussions at Huffington Post

UPDATE:  Legal Insurrection reports the crash was weather related and has more on the tragedy, read the rest there:
"Early indications are that this was a weather related crash:
The pilot was told Smolensk airport was closed because of thick fog, according to the news agency Interfax. He was offered a choice of landing instead in either Moscow or Minsk, the capital of Belarus. But he decided to continue with the original flight plan and land at Smolensk.
The pilot made three unsuccessful attempts to land before the crash. On the fourth try and plane fell apart, Interfax said, citing officials at Smolensk's interior ministry.
Russia's foreign ministry confirmed the cause of the air catastrophe was bad weather. "According to provisional information the crash happened because the plane failed to land at the military airport near Smolensk in conditions of severe fog,' one official aid.
Update: rounds up coverage of the potential causes of the crash including facts leading to and away from pilot error.  Conspiracies are bound to be discussed for some time to come though we are quite a long way away from having proof  these theories have merit.  Perhaps the most troubling question, in my opinion was why the pilot would continue to attempt a landing if weather was so clearly an issue.  One report mentioned here suggests black box communications should provide proof necessary to confirm pilot error as the sole cause of the tragic crash.


  1. Hi Mary Sue! You're up early too!
    This is very sad news. GMTA, I just did a post on this too, with some
    Video of the crash site.
    I think I"ll go back to bed now and try and sleep.
    I Hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Yes Bunni I hope I can get back to sleep. I will link to your video, thanks for the update.


  4. Thanks for the Linkage, Mary Sue. I couldn't sleep very well after that. I dozed a bit and had nightmares. I also put a link to this post in mine, and updated it with more info. I have a very heavy heart today, lots of great Polish People here in Chicago, we are all devastated.

  5. Just dreadful. My prayers go out to Poland.


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