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Russia report on Lech Kaczynski plane crash irks Poland

This week's official Russian report on last year's tragic plane crash puts blame squarely on Polish officials and may undo some of the good will that has brought Poland and Russia closer together.

By Correspondent / January 13, 2011

In this April 11, 2010 file photo, Russian investigators work near the wreckage of the Polish presidential plane, that crashed just outside the Smolensk airport, western Russia.

Mikhail Metzel/File/AP Photo

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Moscow

Pilot error and pressure to make an ill-advised landing from a tipsy Polish airforce chief were to blame for last April's crash of a Polish military airliner that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others on their way to a meeting intended to cement Polish-Russian reconciliation, according to the official report on the tragedy by Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee.

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The crash, on the anniversary of a Soviet mass execution of Polish officers in World War II, had the unexpected effect of improving relations between the two historic antagonists, as both sides came together to mourn the victims and pledge a full and objective investigation of the tragedy's causes.

But the findings of the official 200-page report (pdf), unveiled Wednesday at a Moscow press conference, may undo a lot of that good will. Placing blame on Polish officials for the crash, and also suggesting that Polish political pressure may have provoked the pilot to make the landing attempt, the report is triggering outrage among the many Poles who still harbor suspicions that Russian secret services may have had a hand in the disaster.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, in a press conference today, called the report "incomplete." "If I am concerned by anything, it is by the political context of Russia's investigation," he told reporters in Warsaw.

Polish airforce commander BAC was 0.06

The inquiry concludes that the Polish crew of the Tu-154 airliner were underqualified, made bad in-flight decisions, and were subject to pressure from their high-level passengers who were determined to land, despite dangerous weather conditions and against the advice of ground controllers, in order to attend a joint Polish-Russian ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

"The technical commission has established that serious organizational flaws, poor pilot training and preparation of this particularly important flight... led to the catastrophe," the report says.

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