Monday, 12 April 2010

Polish Air Crash Kills President !


An ageing jet carrying Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and many of the state elite crashed in thick fog in Russia Saturday killing all 97 on board and plunging a nation into grief.Skip related content
The Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-154 hit tree tops in fog as it approached the runway at Smolensk airport in western Russia and broke up in flames, regional governor Sergei Antufiev said.
The plane was taking Kaczynski and his wife, the military chief of staff and other top officers, central bank governor, deputy foreign minister, members of parliament and other senior officials to a memorial ceremony for thousands of Polish troops massacred by Russian forces in World War II.
"It clipped the tops of the trees, crashed down and broke into pieces," Antufiev told Russia-24 television news network. Scene: Plane lies mangled in 'forest of death'
Late Saturday Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the president's identical twin brother and fellow politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski arrived at the crash site, where they met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who has vowed to quickly determine the cause of the tragedy.
Lieutenant General Alexander Alyoshin, deputy head of Russia's air force, pointed to possible pilot error, saying the crew repeatedly ignored instructions from air traffic controllers.
Wreckage, including the engines and a large chunk of mud-caked tailfin, was scattered across a forest and parts of it burned for more than an hour.
As well as killing the 60-year-old head of state, the crash devastated Poland's military leadership.
The 89 passengers included General Franciszek Gagor, chief of Poland's armed forces and the heads of all the main armed forces, as well as central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek, deputy foreign minister Andrzej Kremer, deputy defence minister Stanislaw Jerzy Komorowski, Kaczynski's wife Maria, and scores of lawmakers, historians and other officials. Facts: Polish leaders killed in crash
Former Polish president Lech Walesa, who headed the Solidarity movement, called the disaster "inconceivable".
"The Soviets killed Polish elites in Katyn 70 years ago. Today, the Polish elite died there while getting ready to pay homage to the Poles killed there," a shaken Walesa told AFP.
Bronislaw Komorowski, head of Poland's lower house, took over as interim head-of-state, and ordered a week of official mourning.
On Saturday night he joined tens of thousands of people near the presidential palace as the nation's grief spilled into the streets of central Warsaw. Scene: Tears on the streets for Poland's tragic president
Mourners laid a carpet of candles and flowers across a vast square where Pope John Paul II held masses during his historic visits to his homeland.
"We're a unique kind of nation, we become united at times of national tragedy," said Jerzy Grabowski, a 55-year-old accountant.
Throughout the Polish capital many people hung national flags from their windows.
Kaczynski and his delegation were travelling to Russia to attend a memorial service in the Katyn Forest, near Smolensk, for the 22,000 Polish officers and troops killed by Soviet troops 70 years ago. The event had been intended to help reconciliation between Poland and Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Putin to head a special inquiry commission and sent Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu to the crash site.
Shoigu later reported that all of the bodies had been recovered and were transported to Moscow for identification.
"Everything must be done to establish the reasons for this tragedy in the shortest possible time," Putin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
The two "black box" flight recorders have also been found, news agencies reported.
The jet had been repaired and refurbished in December, said Alexei Gusev, the director of its manufacturer, Aviakor.
Speculation Saturday focused on why the pilots had attempted to land the plane in thick fog.
Some 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) from the airport, air traffic controllers noticed the jet was below the scheduled gliding path, the air force deputy chief said.
"The head of the group ordered the crew to return to horizontal flight, and when the crew did not fulfil the instruction, ordered them several times to land at another airport," said Alyoshin.
"Nonetheless the crew continued to descend. Unfortunately this ended tragically," he added.
Kaczynski and his twin brother formed a formidable dual leadership of Poland's nationalist right wing, stubbornly taking on other European leaders at European Union summits to defend his country's cause. Profile: Kaczynski, from child star to Polish president
The crash occurred three days after Putin and Tusk attended a joint memorial for the Katyn victims. The event was seen as a huge symbolic advance in Russia's often thorny relations with Poland.
Medvedev ordered a day of national mourning in Russia on Monday.
World leaders expressed shock at the disaster. Reax: Shock and sorrow at Kaczynski death
US President Barack Obama hailed the late president as "a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity."