Poland honors late president and other plane crash victims

AP News
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Posted: Apr 10, 2016 4:25 PM
Poland honors late president and other plane crash victims

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's ruling party on Sunday blamed the government of then-Prime Minister Donald Tusk for the 2010 plane crash in which President Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others were killed.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin of the late president, said those guilty should be punished, at least in the moral sense. He was speaking during state ceremonies honoring the victim of the plane crash in Russia and marking its sixth anniversary.

"Regardless of the causes of this tragedy, someone has the responsibility, at least the moral responsibility for it, Kaczynski told thousands gathered for the ceremony. "The previous government is responsible, the one led by Donald Tusk."

Tusk and his ministers have denied previous similar allegations. Tusk is now the European Council president in Brussels.

Kaczynski's conservative Law and Justice party took all power in Poland last year and is reviving allegations that the crash was a conspiracy by Russia and by Tusk's government which did not get along with the president.

Earlier Sunday, President Andrzej Duda said that all facts should be revealed in a new probe.

"We owe (the victims) an honest and thorough examination of what happened then, without unnecessary political quarrels," President Andrzej Duda said during the observances. "Let the experts do it in peace and in a sense of responsibility."

Kaczynski and his followers claim that Tusk and his government neglected the security of the president and later failed to conduct a proper, international investigation. The party also claims that Tusk's team failed to properly honor the fallen president and other members of the nation's elite.

"The Smolensk tragedy and the events before and after it were a dramatic evidence of the poor quality of our state, of poor management, of mistakes," Duda said about Poland under Tusk.

They also claim they have evidence that "almost certainly" proves that the president's plane fell into pieces in midair from an attack as it was preparing to land at Smolensk airport. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has said the crash was an act of terrorism perpetrated by Russia.

The theory is fueled by Moscow's refusal to return the wreckage to Poland, while Russia's prosecutors say they are trying to determine whether anyone is guilty of the crash.

Moscow has denounced the terrorism allegations as "absurd" and official investigations by Poland's and Russia's aviation experts have concluded that the crash was an accident caused by errors of the crew trying to land in heavy fog.

A team of Polish lawmakers recently opened a new probe intended to name those responsible for the crash which was the country's worst national disaster since World War II. Kaczynski's opponents say he is launching a witch hunt.

On Sunday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, other government officials, victims' families and thousands of Poles were taking part in prayers and wreaths' laying at the victims' graves and memorials. Observances were also held at the crash site in Russia.

Among the victims were lawmakers from various political parties, armed forces' commanders and the last president of the Polish government-in-exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski.

They were flying to Russia for observances honoring Polish officers killed in the forest of Katyn and elsewhere by the Soviet secret police in 1940. For five decades, Moscow refused to acknowledge responsibility for those crimes, and the subject was also taboo under Moscow-backed communist rule in Poland until 1989.