Polish President and high-ranking dignitaries were killed in a plane crash on Saturday
by Tanya Boyce
Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, and many of Poland’s highest military and civilian leaders were killed in a plane crash Saturday April 10 in western Russia. The 97 passengers were travelling towards the ceremonies of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre when the 26-year-old Tu-154 plane failed to land in a thick fog.
Among the passengers were the president’s wife, the army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, and heads of the air and land forces. Some of the passengers on board were relatives of those slain in the Katyn massacre. The national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers were also killed during the crash.
Thousands of mourners flooded the streets of central Warsaw with flowers and candles throughout the night. Monks at Karkow’s Wawel Cathedral rang the Zygmunt bell, a tolling only reserved for moments of great grief or importance.
Despite the history of the two countries’ relations, Russia was also shocked by the crash’s grave outcome. Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, personally assumed charge of the investigation. On Saturday, Putin and a number of other Russian officials landed in Smolensk to meet with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Putin did not delay his offerings of condolences to the public.
“On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people,” Medvedev said, according to the Kremlin press service.
The functioning of the Polish government is not expected to be modified or affected by the deaths of the president and the dozens of other dignitaries. The president of Poland is commander in chief of its armed forces however, the duties are mostly symbolic. Poland’s chief ministers were not aboard the plan. Bronislaw Komorowski, Poland’s acting president, commented on the tragedy in a televised address to the nation.
“Today in the face of such a drama our nation stays united. There is no division into left and right, differences of views don’t matter. We are together in the face of this tragedy.”
Komorowski declared a week of mourning and two-minute moment of silence was held at noon on Sunday.
Aviation Safety Network states that there have been 66 crashes involving the Tu-154 planes. The Russian carrier Aeroflot no longer use their Tu-154 planes because they do not meet international noise restrictions and use too much fuel. Although Poland has discussed withdrawing from using their fleet of
Tu-154s, the country lacks the funds for replacements.