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English Section

Warsaw calls on Moscow to return plane wreck 10 years after crash

10.04.2020 14:00
Poland’s foreign ministry said on Friday it had called on Moscow to immediately return the wreckage of a Polish presidential plane that crashed in western Russia 10 years ago.
The wreckage of the Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 plane that crashed near Smolensk, western Russia, on April 10, 2010.
The wreckage of the Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 plane that crashed near Smolensk, western Russia, on April 10, 2010.Photo: PAP/ITAR-TASS/Russian Investigative Committee

Friday marked exactly a decade since a Polish plane carrying President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 94 others, including top political and military figures, crashed near Smolensk, western Russia, killing all those on board.

The Polish state delegation was heading to commemorate some 22,000 Polish prisoners of war and intellectuals who were killed in the spring of 1940 on orders from top Soviet authorities in what is known as the Katyn Massacre.

Poland's top officials on Friday took part in events to mark the 10th anniversary of the fatal air crash, which scarred the national psyche and is still a source of controversy and recrimination.

Moscow has over the years refused to return the wreckage of the presidential plane to Poland, claiming that it is continuing to investigate the crash.

Russia ‘holding on to Polish property’

The Polish foreign ministry on Friday said in a tweet it had sent a diplomatic note to the Russian embassy in Warsaw calling on Moscow “to immediately hand over Poland's property—the wreckage of the Tu-154 M” plane.

"No norm of international law gives grounds for Russia to hold on to Polish property," the Polish foreign ministry said.

International pressure

The Parliamentary Assembly of the human rights body the Council of Europe in 2018 called on Russia to “hand over the wreckage of the Polish Air Force Tu-154 to the Polish authorities without further delay” in a manner that “avoids any further deterioration” of potential evidence.

“The continuing refusal of the Russian authorities to return the wreckage and other evidence constitutes an abuse of rights and has fuelled speculation on the Polish side that Russia has something to hide,” the Council of Europe parliamentarians said.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters last year that there was “no legal basis and there is no rational justification" for Moscow holding onto the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane.

Hints of foul play

Poland’s ruling conservatives have long challenged an official report into the causes of the disaster issued by the country’s previous 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 Lech Kaczyński.

The commission said in January 2018 that the jet’s left wing was destroyed as a result of an explosion on board.

The commission added that the explosion had “several sources” on the plane.

In April 2017, the Polish 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of 2017 denied Polish suggestions that the 2010 air crash was the result of a Russian conspiracy.

(gs/pk)

Source: IAR, dorzeczy.pl