After crash, Polish-Russian ties 'more difficult': PM

19th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Relations between Warsaw and Moscow are currently "more difficult" than prior to the April 2010 air crash in Russia which killed president Lech Kaczynski, Poland's prime minister said Wednesday.

"Current relations between Poland and Russia are more difficult than prior to April 10, due also to the events of the last several days," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a session of parliament focussed on the crash probe, a topic of considerable controversy.

His comments came eight days after Russian investigators published a report clearing Russian air traffic control of responsibility for the crash.

Inexperienced Polish pilots took the decision to land "under inappropriate conditions" in a thick fog under pressure from senior Polish officials on the flight, the Russian report said.

The late Kaczynski's surviving twin and conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused the Russian report of making "a mockery of Poland."

On Monday, the husband and lawyer of the late Kaczynski's only child Marta, said Moscow may have plotted to assassinate him.

Without denying any of the Russian crash report's conclusions, Prime Minister Tusk said last week it was "incomplete".

Poland said Russian investigators omitted mistakes and shortcomings on the Russian side, including errors by air traffic controllers and the very poor technical condition of the Smolensk air traffic control facility.

On Tuesday, Poland made public recordings showing Russian air traffic controllers had given the Polish crew incorrect altitude and flight path coordinates during a landing approach made in a thick fog which should have seen the airport shut.

Tusk on Wednesday also called for the "investigation into the catastrophe not to be transformed into a political quarrel."

"Our objective is to gather and present a complete version of the accident," Tusk said, adding he expected a full Polish crash report would be ready in late February.

"It's about learning the truth, not a comfortable truth," for either of the sides involved, he said.

Lech Kaczynski died with 95 others when his Russian-made jet crashed on April 10, 2010 as it tried to land in thick fog near the city of Smolensk in north-western Russia.

The Polish delegation was en route to memorial ceremonies in the nearby Katyn forest marking the 70th anniversary of World War II massacre of thousands of Polish officers on orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Poland and Russia have had uneasy relations since the demise of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, but Poles were struck by the level of public and official mourning in Russia following the Smolensk tragedy.

© 2011 AFP

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