Poland Will Exhume Bodies from 2010 Smolensk Plane Crash

FILE - This is a Sunday, April 11, 2010 file photo of the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane which crashed early Saturday in Smolensk, western Russia. A Polish court Tuesday June 21, 2016 has convicted and handed a suspended prison term to Pawel Bielawny a former deputy head of …
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File

Radio Poland announced on Wednesday that all un-cremated bodies from the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, will be exhumed. The crash claimed 96 victims, including President Lech Kaczynski.

“Comprehensive post-mortem examinations, also using computer tomography in the field of toxicology and DNA will be important for determining the injuries of the victims and the causes of their deaths, as well as to reconstruct the final moments of the disaster and its causes. It is vital to clarify the underlying thread of the investigation, despite several years having passed since the disaster,” said Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s national prosecutor.

Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), was among those who attended a meeting with Ziobro, suggesting that the bodies of the late president and his wife might be among those exhumed.

“The PiS party has vowed to bring several people involved in the organisation of the flight to justice, as well as to get to the bottom of why the president’s Tupolev plane crashed while approaching the runway of Smolensk airport,” Radio Poland reports.

The UK Guardian elaborates that while the previous government ruled the crash was a result of pilot error, the PiS believes “the crash may have been caused by an explosion on board.”

As for who might have placed that bomb, the Guardian delicately notes that “although PiS has never accused Russia of orchestrating the president’s death, it has said the Kremlin benefited from the crash.” In addition to President Kaczynski, the crash claimed the lives of several top military officials and lawmakers, as well as the chief of Poland’s central bank.

Adding to the tensions, the reason Kaczynski and his retinue of officials were flying to Smolensk was to commemorate the Katyn massacre, the execution of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in 1940, which Poland holds as an “enduring symbol of its suffering at Soviet hands,” although the Guardian notes Moscow blames the Nazis for those executions.

Kremlin-run outlet RT.com launched a pre-emptive sneer strike against the Polish investigation, arguing that “some Warsaw officials continue to use wild conspiracy theories as political leverage.”

“In Poland, conspiracy theories began circulating immediately after the crash, claiming that it was an elaborate Russian plot or a coup attempt allegedly orchestrated by Moscow,” RT.com continues, describing Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz as “fierce advocates of groundless assassination theories.”

The Russian news service spends a great deal of time tearing into these conspiracy theories but also mentions a Polish political consideration that less biased sources also consider important: a vendetta between Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Donald Tusk, who is currently president of the European Council but was Poland’s prime minister when the crash occurred.

“Members of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) camp have said it would be a good idea if Mr Tusk himself was brought before the country’s State Tribunal to answer accusations of negligence for his handling of the disaster,” the BBC reports.

“Everything that happened before the catastrophe is your fault. This is the result of your policies. In the political sense you bear 100% responsibility for the catastrophe in Smolensk,” the BBC recalls Jaroslaw Kaczynski saying to Tusk during a 2012 parliamentary session.

One of those scheduled to present evidence in the new investigation this week is Tomasz Arabski, who was the chief of Tusk’s office in 2010, and has been accused of “failing to uphold his obligation as a public official.” He could potentially face three years in prison, along with several other officials, if convicted on those charges.

Deutsche Welle reports that former deputy head of government security General Pawel Bielawny was found guilty of “knowingly neglecting his duties and exposing Kaczynski to danger by failing to order a proper inspection of Smolensk airport and failing to send experienced officers to await the plane’s landing,” earning a suspended 18-month prison sentence and a fine on Tuesday.

“More than three quarters of Poles believe Mr Tusk’s government did not do enough to explain the causes of the crash. Critics say Mr Tusk should not have allowed the Russians to conduct the first crash investigation,” the BBC observes. Roughly a third of Poles believe the Smolensk crash was the result of an assassination plot or terrorist attack.

The official account of the crash holds that a poorly-trained, inexperienced flight crew attempted to land in heavy fog and struck a tree, shearing a wing off the plane. Even leaving accusations of a terrorist bombing aside, the Polish government has accused Russian air traffic controllers of misinforming the plane’s crew about the position of their aircraft.


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