Poland reopens 2010 crash probe
The 2010 Smolensk crash site. Source: Wikimedia
Poland has begun a probe into the death of former president Lech Kaczynski six years since his death in a plane crash in Russia.
His body has been exhumed amid multiple conspiracy theories and deep Polish divisions. Kaczynski and 95 others died in Smolensk, 360km west of Moscow, in April 2010 in a crash with Polish nationalists claiming the plane was attacked. Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s defence minister who is leading the investigation, has argued the aircraft broke up in mid-air as a result of an explosion, possibly a bomb.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of the late president and Poland’s most powerful man as leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, also alleges foul play. Claims that the Kremlin or Kaczynski’s liberal opposition were involved are a key part of the ruling party’s message, which draws heavily on the need to defend Poland from international threats and promote nationalism.
“Poland will not be truly free without the truth … without closing the Smolensk case,” Kaczynski said. “This has cast a long shadow on the life of our nation, our society.”
But the quest by some politicians for evidence to prove a conspiracy to assassinate Kaczynski has proved divisive. After two government reports, which concluded that pilot error and heavy fog were to blame for the crash, around 75 per cent of Poles said the matter should rest.
But others point to mistakes made by initial investigators at the scene and Moscow’s refusal to return the wreckage as reasons to suspect foul play. The bodies will undergo “toxicological studies, genetic, physicochemical and histopathological studies” to determine cause of death.
At the crypt on Krakow’s Wawel Hill, where the former president and his wife Maria lie in state, investigators opened their coffins at the start of four days of tests. Exhumations will extend to almost all of those killed, leading to criticism from some relatives who wanted the dead to stay buried.
Kaczynski has worn a black suit and tie in public since the crash and holds a public vigil on the 10th day of every month. He has never formally accused anyone of planning the crash.
He has suggested that his political rival Donald Tusk, who was Poland’s prime minister at the time, bears “moral responsibility”. Tusk and Moscow denied any involvement.
They were on the way to attend a memorial in Katyn, where an estimated 22,000 members of the Polish military and educational elite were murdered in 1940 by the Red Army.