Poland marks anniversary of president’s death in plane crash

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — With wreath-laying ceremonies and prayers, Poland on Monday observed the seventh anniversary of a plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 others.

Poland’s current Law and Justice ruling party is headed by Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has led regular commemorations of the tragedy and who still thinks many questions surrounding the crash need to be answered.

He has blamed the crash on Russia, which has refused to return the wreckage and the plane’s flight recorders, and on Donald Tusk, the then-Polish prime minister who is now one of the European Union’s top officials.

Both Russia and Tusk have denounced the accusations as absurd.

Kaczynski has questioned conclusions by a team of aviation experts who said the crash was an accident resulting from errors by the crew trying to land at rudimentary Smolensk airport in dense fog.

A special commission appointed by the government to re-investigate the crash is to present its findings later Monday.

Commission head, Waclaw Berczynski, said Monday it is still looking for the cause of the crash, with a midair explosion being one of the theories.

“We don’t know yet the cause of the crash,” Berczynski said on state TVP Info. “We know what happened, we know better how the events developed, but we cannot say yet what it was that for sure caused the catastrophe. We will continue looking.”

He said that debris from the plane spread over a long stretch before the runaway suggests the Tu-154 plane “disintegrated in midair.”

Though the ruling party’s use of state bodies to pursue conspiracy theories appeals to its backers who are traditionally suspicious of Russia, many are critical and protests are to be held Monday.

“You have said lies about Smolensk, because these lies paved your way to power and to revenge,” Jaroslaw Kurski, a government critic, wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

“You have turned national mourning into a political spectacle.”

Early Monday, President Andrzej Duda and Marta Kaczynska, the late presidential couple’s daughter, laid flowers at their marble tomb in the royal vaults of Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, in the south of the country.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accompanied by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, placed a wreath in the national white-and-red colors at Warsaw’s presidential palace shortly after 08:41 a.m., the time when the plane crashed on April 10, 2010, on approach to an airport in the Russian city of Smolensk. The gathered crowd joined Kaczynski in prayer.

President Kaczynski and a delegation of Poland’s political and military elite had been flying to Russia to pay tribute to some 22,000 Polish officers, prisoners of war, killed in the forest of Katyn and at other locations by the Soviet secret police during World War II.

As well as fueling a raft of conspiracy theories, the tragedy seven years ago has escalated Poland’s sense of suffering at the hands of Russia.

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