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English Section

Bid to arrest air traffic staff over 2010 crash of Polish president’s jet in Russia

16.09.2020 23:40
Prosecutors in Poland have asked a Warsaw court to authorize the arrest of three air traffic controllers who were on duty the day a Polish presidential plane crashed in western Russia more than 10 years ago, killing all aboard.
The crashed Polish presidential plane near Smolensk, western Russia, in 2010.
The crashed Polish presidential plane near Smolensk, western Russia, in 2010. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Bartosz Staszewski, PRS Team.net. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

The move by the prosecutors is the first step to an international arrest warrant being issued for the Russian staff who were manning the control tower of Smolensk Military Airport.

The plane crash near the western Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010, killed Polish President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others. It is still a source of controversy and recriminations.

"The charges against the air traffic controllers concern the deliberate causing of an air crash, resulting in the death of many people," Ewa Bialik, a spokeswoman for the National Public Prosecutor's Office in Poland, said on Wednesday evening.

Polish prosecutors have concluded that a radar system used by the Smolensk control tower was out of order, state news agency PAP reported.

As a result, most of the information provided by the controllers to the pilots of the Polish plane about its position was untrue, according to the news agency.

Although the controllers did not know the actual location of the Polish president’s jet, they gave the pilots permission to descend, PAP added.

The delegation on the presidential plane had been flying to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviets during World War II.

Poland’s ruling conservatives have long challenged an official report into the causes of the plane crash issued by the previous Civic Platform-led government, which cited a catalogue of errors on the Polish side, while also pointing to errors made by Russian staff at the control tower of Smolensk Military Airport.

A Russian report placed all the blame on the Poles.

A new commission to probe the crash was set up by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in Poland in 2015. The party is headed by Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of the late president.

In April 2017, the commission said that the presidential plane was probably destroyed by a mid-air explosion and that Russian air traffic controllers deliberately misled Polish pilots about their location as they neared the runway.

(pk/gs)

Source: PAP