Kaczynski Air Disaster Russian Report Reserves All Blame for Poland

The Poles were to blame. That is the conclusion of a report released by Russian investigators on Wednesday into the causes of the April plane crash which killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski. His twin brother called the report "a joke against Poland."

Russian investigators showed a reconstruction of the crash at a press conference on Wednesday.

Russian investigators showed a reconstruction of the crash at a press conference on Wednesday.

The report presented on Wednesday in Moscow was thick. But the conclusion it delivered was straightforward. Russian air traffic controllers, investigators in Russia found, were not to blame for the April 2010 plane crash which resulted in the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others. Instead, pressure exerted on the pilot by officials on board led to the disaster, the report found.

The polish Tu-154 plane crashed in a wooded area while attempting to land in thick fog in Smolensk, Russia, leaving no survivors. The delegation -- which included leading political, military and cultural figures -- was there to attend a ceremony commemorating the 1940 Katyn massacre, which saw the Soviet secret police execute over 20,000 Polish officers and other POWs.

At a Wednesday press conference, officials from Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), a regulatory body overseeing aviation in several former Soviet countries, pointed to a number of factors they say led to the crash. The report concluded, for example, that Gen. Andrzej Blasik, head of Poland's air force, had been in the cockpit with an elevated blood-alcohol level of 0.06 percent and had pressured the plane's pilots to land, despite the poor visibility.

'By All Means Necessary'

Committee Chairwoman Tatiana Anodina told reporters that Blasik's presence there "had a psychological influence on the commander's decision to take an unjustified risk by continuing the descent with the overwhelming goal of landing by all means necessary."

"On the one hand, (the pilot) knew the plane shouldn't be landing in adverse weather conditions," Anodina added. "On the other, there was a strong pressure on board to bring the plane to a landing."

According to the report, pressure to land wasn't just present in the cockpit. Russia officials played an excerpt from the flight recorder in which one of the crew members, referring to Kaczynski, says: "He'll get mad." However, Alexei Morozov, the head of the committee's technical commission, did stress that Kaczynski had not given any "concrete command" to land.

Morozov also discussed other factors which may have contributed to the crash. He noted that there had been a glitch in one of the plane's gauges that led the crew to mistakenly believe the plane was higher than it was. And he said that the crew of another Polish plane that had landed at the airport shortly beforehand had advised the ill-fated plane's crew to attempt a landing despite adverse weather conditions.

'A Joke against Poland '

The report freed Russian air traffic controllers from any blame for the accident. Morozov underlined that they "gave no permission to land." "They should have started a second attempt," he added, "but instead continued their unauthorized descent."

An initial period of shared remorse after the crash was followed by one of mutual finger-pointing in which Poles and Russians traded accusations of responsibility for the crash. Late last year, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk received an early, shorter version of the report. After reading it, he accused Russian investigators of negligence and errors.

On Wednesday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Lech's twin brother, reacted strongly to the report. "The report puts the entire blame on Polish pilots and Poland without any proof," he said. "The report is a joke against Poland."

jtw -- with wire reports


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