World

Poland's former health minister questioned in 2010 crash

After autopsies revealed coffins with the remains of multiple victims, Polish prosecutors on Wednesday questioned a former health minister over alleged government negligence in the aftermath of the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

Prosecutors say they want to know why the Polish government at the time failed to ensure that Russia carried out proper identification of the remains, and failed to perform autopsies after the bodies arrived in Poland in sealed coffins in April 2010. Government officials insisted the coffins should not be opened.

Autopsies done now on the order of the ruling party, led by the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have revealed that many coffins hold remains of multiple victims.

The discovery has further strained ties between Poland and Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday criticized what she called unfounded claims that Russia was responsible for mistakes in identifying bodies.

"We closely cooperated with Polish colleagues, and no problems arose back then," she said at a briefing.

Polish prosecutors questioned Ewa Kopacz, the former health minister and a physician, over her role in Moscow, where she assured the public that all due professional attention was given to victims' remains. It is still unclear what role Poland took in the forensic procedures.

I will fight to the last to prevent such tragic event from becoming a political issue," Kopacz, who served as prime minister from 2014-2015, said Wednesday. She said she did the right thing to be in Moscow.

Investigators also hope to question Donald Tusk, prime minister at the time and now a top European Union official.

____

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.