Poland honors president killed in 2010 plane crash

Published April 10, 2012

| Associated Press

Polish politicians held dueling observances Tuesday for President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others killed two years ago in a plane crash in Russia, as conspiracy theories about the crash still smoldered.

The April 10, 2010 crash was Poland's worst disaster in decades and claimed the lives of the first lady and dozens of top Polish civilian and military leaders.

Wreaths and lights were placed at sites in Warsaw and in Smolensk, Russia, where the plane crashed.

President Bronislaw Komorowski laid flowers at a plaque to the victims that was placed on the Presidential Palace.

Minutes later, Kaczynski's twin brother and opposition party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, laid a wreath at a different site in front of the palace. Dozens of his followers added lights, flowers and a wooden cross and the names of the victims were read out.

Kaczynski then went to the Military Powazki Cemetery, where he laid a wreath at a granite monument honoring those killed. Prime Minister Donald Tusk also laid flowers there.

In Smolensk, Polish Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski, Russian Parliament Speaker Sergei Naryshkin and families of the victims laid wreaths at the site of the crash, which Russia's Foreign Ministry called a "deeply sad page in Polish-Russian relations."

Kaczynski, the head of the nationalist Law and Justice party, has been fueling theories that the crash was an assassination, feelings backed by a sense that the Russians were not fully transparent or cooperative in investigating the crash. Much of the evidence, including the plane's wreckage, is still in Russia.

Talking about the crash, Kaczynski recently told Onet.pl news that "everything indicates that it ended in an assassination." He also indicated he will run in the 2015 presidential election.

On Monday night, Kaczynski's followers set fire to effigies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Tusk, after mentioning their names amid assassination theories.

Lech Kaczynski was skeptical of Russia, a historic foe that invaded Poland's eastern half at the start of World War II and controlled the country during the Cold War, so it is little surprise that many of his and his brother's followers would voice distrust in Russia after the crash.

Polish and Russian investigations have concluded the 2010 crash was an accident due to bad weather conditions and inadequate crew training. Polish experts also blamed poor guidance from Russian air traffic controllers.

Polish military prosecutors are conducting a separate investigating for criminal charges.

The presidential delegation was traveling to Russia to honor 22,000 Polish officers murdered by Josef Stalin's secret police at the start of World War II in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk, and at other locations. That symbolism has only added to the national grief and to conspiracy theories.

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