Polish defense minister quits in wake of Katyn crash report | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 29.07.2011
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Polish defense minister quits in wake of Katyn crash report

A new report by Polish investigators has shed more light on the 2010 plane crash in which the country's president and many officials were killed. The Polish defense minister stepped down Friday in the wake of the report.

A firefighter walks near some of the wreckage at the crash site

The president and 95 others were killed in the crash

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich has resigned after a government report outlined serious errors by the crew of a military plane that crashed in Russia last year, killing Poland's president.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the report, published Friday, ruled out "extremist versions" of the events that had been circulating, including sabotage and pressure from third parties on the crew to land despite the weather.

Tusk also came to Klich's defense, saying he had never held the minister "responsible for the disaster," but had "recognized it would be more difficult to implement the report's recommendations if he stayed on as defense minister."

Tusk named Tomasz Siemoniak, a deputy interior minister, as the new head of the Defense Ministry.

A picture of Lech Kaczynski and his wife

Lech Kaczynski was president from 2005 until his death in 2010

The crash report also found that the ill-fated plane's crew were poorly trained and had approached the runway too low and too fast as they prepared to land in poor conditions in the western Russian town of Smolensk.

"The aircraft commander, co-pilot, and navigator had been trained hastily, haphazardly, and in violation of the respective training regulations," it said.

The navigator's Russian was weak, and the meteorological information was incomplete, the report added.

Mutual fault

The investigation also found some shortcomings on the Russian side, emphasizing that the lighting at the airport was inadequate and that air-traffic controllers had relayed erroneous information to the pilots.

The late President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and other senior officials were heading to Katyn to commemorate the murder of thousands of Polish officers there by Soviet secret police during World War II.

Russia, for its part, said it broadly agreed with the findings of the Polish report. The Moscow-based Interstate Air Committee said some conclusions "were not understandable for us" but "overall" the Polish investigation corresponded with its findings.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James

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