Poland rejects Russian report on jet crash in Smolensk

Poland rejects Russian report on jet crash

Published: Dec. 17, 2010 at 10:00 AM

BRUSSELS, Dec. 17 (UPI) — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk Friday rejected Russia’s draft report on the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski in April.

Speaking in Brussels during a European summit, Tusk said the preliminary report was “unacceptable” and some of its findings contradicted Polish information and the Chicago Convention rules on aviation investigations, Poland Radio reported.

Poland sent its findings on the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee’s report to Moscow Thursday. Russian investigators were supposed to take Poland’s findings into account before issuing a final report.

Meanwhile, Warsaw prosecutors are investigating suspicions vital evidence was destroyed by the Russians, Poland Radio said.

Rafal Rogalski, a lawyer representing some the 96 victims’ families, told prosecutors the wreckage is being destroyed, citing a television report showing Russians cutting it into smaller pieces.

Poland has repeatedly asked Russia to protect the evidence, but it was only in October that the plane was fenced off and covered with tarpaulin.

The aged Tu-154 crashed after hitting trees in thick fog April 10. The Polish delegation was on its way to a commemoration of the 1940 Katyn Forest massacre, in which more than 20,000 Polish officers were slain by Soviet secret police.

Poland Rejects Russian Findings in Air Crash

By MARCIN SOBCZYK

EUROPE NEWS DECEMBER 17, 2010, 12:12 P.M. ET

WARSAW—Poland’s prime minister rejected the findings of Russian investigators looking into the April plane crash that killed the Polish president and dozens of other dignitaries, saying their draft report was “indisputably unacceptable”—a development that threatens to set back warming ties between the two countries.

The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee gave its draft report to the Polish government last month after complaints from Polish politicians that it was moving too slowly in conducting its probe. The crash, which killed 94 people in addition to the president and first lady, prompted national mourning and has sparked political recriminations.

“In the form it was sent, the report is indisputably unacceptable,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters Friday on the sidelines of the European Union summit in Brussels. “In the view of negligence, errors and a lack of positive reaction to Polish suggestions, we’re able to say that some conclusions in the report are baseless.”

The findings haven’t been made public, and Mr. Tusk didn’t offer any specifics about what conclusions he found objectionable. The government said earlier that the report would be made public but didn’t say when.

Moscow appeared eager to head off any confrontation. Alexei Sazonov, a spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry, told Ekho Moskvy radio Friday that his country stands ready to answer any questions Poland has about the crash. He said the two sides should cooperate, adding that it is “important not to politicize the situation.”

Transcripts of cockpit voice recordings ahead of the crash indicated that the crew was determined to land despite heavy fog at an airport in Smolensk, in western Russia, where the president and other passengers were bound to attend a ceremony commemorating a massacre of Polish prisoners ordered by Stalin during World War II.

Poland’s chief air-crash investigator has primarily blamed insufficient training of the Polish military pilots and their violation of safety rules for the accident. But he has also said that Russian air-traffic controllers should have diverted the plane to another airport when visibility dropped.

“I believe the Polish side bears more responsibility, but of course the Russians had their shortcomings,” said Edmund Klich, head of Poland’s air-crash investigation committee who has seen the Russian report.

Mr. Klich had earlier complained that Russian investigators hadn’t passed along records of conversations among Russian air-traffic controllers on duty when the plane crashed.

The investigation of the crash has become part of partisan debate in Poland, pitting the more traditionalist conservative backers of the late president, Lech Kaczynski, against the party of his political opponents, including the current prime minister and the country’s newly elected president, who both belong to the Civic Platform party.

Conspiracy theories have swirled among conservatives, who are skeptical about the recently improving ties between Moscow and Warsaw and who have criticized Russia’s handling of the investigation and what they see as the Polish government’s willingness to accept Moscow’s findings.

Poland rejects Russian findings on Kaczynski crash: report

abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at 12/17/2010 6:40 PM | Updated as of 12/17/2010 6:40 PM

WARSAW, Poland – Poland rejects the draft findings of a Russian probe into the April plane crash that killed its president Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk was quoted as saying Friday by the PAP news agency.

Speaking in Brussels where he was attending an EU summit, Tusk said the draft report submitted to Poland by Russian accident investigators was “unacceptable, without question”, PAP reported.

In October, Russia said that it had established the causes of the April 10 plane tragedy in Smolensk, northwestern Russia, that killed Kaczynski and 95 other Poles.

Russian investigators handed their Polish opposite numbers their 200-page report on October 20, and said they would not publish the findings until Poland commented.

Warsaw had 60 days to submit its remarks.

On Thursday, Poland’s interior ministry said that it had given Russia 150 page of comments. It declined to elaborate.

The Polish presidential Russian-made Tupolev-154 crashed as it landed for a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of a World War II massacre of around 22,000 captured Polish officers by the Soviet secret police.

Besides Kaczynski and his wife, those who died in the crash included Polish lawmakers, military top brass and relatives of the wartime massacre victims.

According to preliminary findings released earlier this year, investigators found that the crew ignored warnings that heavy fog made conditions unsuitable for landing and that two passengers were present in the cockpit shortly before the crash.

Polish officials have said the two passengers were Poland’s air force chief General Andrzej Blasik and Mariusz Kazana, diplomatic protocol chief with Poland’s foreign ministry.

But they have insisted that no evidence has emerged that pilots were pressured to land for the high-profile memorial ceremony.

Russia has stressed that it is handing full information to Poland and has made efforts to be open to the media, but Warsaw complained of delays in the investigation.

Despite that, the months since the crash have seen a warming of long-tense relations between Russia and Poland, and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev made a state visit to Poland earlier this month.

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