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September 23, 2010

Poland Unhappy with Russia’s Handling of Presidential Plane Crash Investigation

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Written by: BNO News
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Poland Tu-154 Crash Wreckage

Wreckage of the downed plane at Smolensk. (Photo by Serge Serebro, Vitebsk Popular News)

Poland on Thursday expressed its dissatisfaction with the progress of Russia’s investigation of the accident in which President Lech Kaczynski lost his life among other high-ranking officials, local media reported.

According to the Moscow Times, the concerns were transmitted to Russian authorities in a letter handed by Edmund Klich, the Polish representative in the probe led by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee.

The Polish comments are the first public sign of new tension between Warsaw and Moscow. Klich said a major concern was that Poland had not received detailed information from Smolensk airport and the procedures followed by its personnel, which could be useful in determining the cause of the crash.

“There is a feeling of a certain deficiency because we haven’t received many things that we have wanted to have,” said Klich. “I don’t look at the documents from the point of view of blame, I look at them from the point of view of a decision’s influence on the occurrence of the accident or the circumstances that could have affected the accident.”

Information about the airport is very important regarding to whether the flight should be classified as civilian or military — a potentially crucial point in assigning responsibility for the decision of landing in poor weather.

Last April, President Lech Kaczynski, 60, was killed when the Polish Presidential plane crashed near Smolensk airport in western Russia. A total of 132 people, including former Polish President Ryszard Kaczorowski and Chief of Staff of the Polish Armed Forces Franciszek Gągor died in the crash too.

If the flight was classified as an international civil one, final responsibility for the landing would lie with the plane’s crew, or possibly someone else on board. Some reports indicate that the pilot was ordered by someone in the plane to attempt landing but some investigators denied this.

Others allege that the Smolensk airport, served by Russian military, does not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards of a civilian airport as it is a military airport.

Klich concluded by saying that Poland expects that the Interstate Aviation Committee will address these concerns and would come up with a satisfactory explanation on the events that led to the tragic plane accident.

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