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.
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Head investigator Tatiana Anodina said that Polish airforce commander Gen. Andrzej Blasik – who had a blood alcohol level of 0.06 percent, enough to impair reasoning – and Poland's protocol chief, Mariusz Kazan, were in the cockpit and bantering with the crew as the plane approached Smolensk. The two officials' presence on the flight deck "had a psychological influence on the pilot's decision to take an unjustified risk by continuing the descent with the overwhelming goal of landing by all means necessary," Ms. Anodina said.Skip to next paragraph
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Poland's political opposition, who blame Prime Minister Tusk for moving to improve relations with Russia in the first place, are slamming the report as biased and intentionally insulting toward Poland.
"These are the results of the decision made by Donald Tusk to hand over the investigation to the Russians," Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice Party and twin brother of the president who died in the crash, told journalists in Warsaw. "Today we are facing the consequences of this decision in the form of a report, which puts the full and one-sided blame on Polish pilots and Poland without any evidence," he said.
Mr. Kaczynski called the report "a joke against Poland."
Russia defends findings
But Russian aviation experts defend the report, which they say was fully revised to take into account Polish objections after preliminary findings indicated pilot error last year.
"There is simply no reason not to trust this report, which includes a second-by-second analysis of the last 30 minutes of cockpit conversations analyzed by top specialists," says Roman Gusarov, editor of the online journal Aviation.ru. "There are no technical details that weren't thoroughly examined."
Reacting to the storm of controversy – and some persistent conspiracy theories – on display in the Polish press Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begged Poles "not to speculate" about the disaster.
"Emotions are running high, and if you add emotions to politics you always get a combustible mix," says Dmitry Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center. "It's very unfortunate that after coming together over this tragedy, some people are now going separate ways.
"But it doesn't need to spell the end to reconciliation efforts between Russia and Poland, and perhaps Russia needs to take the initiative," in putting them back on track, he says.