Poland first lady commemorates plane crash in Russia

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 09, 2011 11:11 AM
Poland first lady commemorates plane crash in Russia

SMOLENSK, Russia (Reuters) - Poland's first lady took part in a ceremony Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of a plane crash at Smolensk airport in western Russia that killed the Polish president and 95 others.

Late president Lech Kaczynski, his wife and many political and military leaders were killed on their way to a ceremony in Katyn, near Smolensk to mark the anniversary of the killing of 22,000 Poles by the Soviet NKVD secret police in 1940.

Moscow and Warsaw are still investigating what caused the plane to crash in thick fog when it was preparing to land near Smolensk, some 360 kilometers (224 miles) west of Moscow.

Anna Komorowska, wife of President Bronislaw Komorowski who succeeded Kaczynski, led a delegation of over 100 relatives of those who were killed in the crash, Poland's worst disaster since World War Two.

"I'm shaken, I'm still shaken," said Pawel Deresz, whose wife, Jolanta Szymanek Deresz, a member of Poland's parliament and chief of staff for former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, was among those killed.

"I'm here for the second time since the crash and I still cannot believe it," he said, braving driving rain and snow to attend the ceremony.

The Polish president is due to arrive in Moscow Monday where he will meet his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and also visit the crash site and Katyn.

Fierce arguments have erupted between the two countries over the cause of the crash, which a Russian report in January blamed on the Polish pilots and absolved its own ground control of any responsibility.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Sophie Hares)