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Europe

Russian report blames Poles for death of Polish president in air crash

A Russian report says the crew of a Polish plane carrying Lech Kaczynski was worried that he would be angry if they refused to land because of fog. His brother rejects the findings as "a joke against Poland."

Remains of the plane at the crash scene

The plane crash was a traumatic event for the Polish people

Russian aviation officials said in a report issued on Wednesday that the plane carrying the Polish leader Lech Kaczynski crashed because the crew feared the president's anger if they aborted the landing due to fog.

The report has met with widespread criticism in Poland.

Presenting its final report, the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) played a recording of a crew member saying, "He'll get mad," as the plane approached Smolensk in April 2010, where Kaczynski was to attend a memorial for Poles massacred by Soviet secret police in Katyn in 1940.

The plane crashed in the fog, killing all 96 people on board, among them many leading political and military figures.

Drunken air-force chief in the cockpit

Kaczynski

Kaczynski died with 95 others

The head of the IAC, Tatiana Anodina, said that the presence of Kaczynski and the air force chief, Andrzej Blasik, on the plane, had influenced the crew's decision. There was no evidence of any direct order from Kaczynski.

But voice-recordings showed that Blasik, who had 0.06 percent alcohol in his blood, had put pressure on the crew in the cabin.

The Russian air traffic control authorities had advised against trying to land in the poor visibility.

Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw, who is currently leader of the opposition in Poland, dismissed the findings. "My brother did not show suicidal tendencies," he said. He described the report as "a joke against Poland."

The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, cut short his holiday to return to Poland for talks. Last month, he criticized an early version of the report as "unacceptable."

A senior Polish foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity that the report could mean a turn for the worse in Polish-Russian relations, which improved considerably in the aftermath of the crash.

Author: Michael Lawton (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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