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Polish president’s crash probe rules out attack: prosecutors

Polish investigators said Friday they had ruled out the idea that a terrorist attack caused the plane crash last year in Russia that killed Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski.

“All investigative procedures to date by the Polish military prosecutor’s office have ruled out that it was a terrorist attack,” prosecutor Colonel Ireneusz Szelag told reporters.

Poland’s civilian chief prosecutor, Andrzej Seremet, however, said other lines of inquiry were still being looked at.

“Prosecutors have ended that arm of the investigation. Other lines of inquiry are still being pursued,” he said.

Kaczynski and all 95 fellow members of his delegation died on April 10, 2010, when Poland’s presidential jet crashed in fog as it tried to land in Smolensk, western Russia.

The victims, including other senior Polish politicians and military top brass, were bound for a ceremony at the nearby Katyn forest for some 22,000 Polish officers were slain by Soviet secret police in 1940.

Shared mourning over the tragedy fuelled a relative thaw in ties between Warsaw and its communist-era overlord Moscow, although they have sparred over a Russian crash report blaming the Polish pilots.

Warsaw has protested the alleged whitewashing of the Russian air traffic controllers.

The Polish military prosecutor’s probe had been due to end on April 10 this year, but has been extended to October 10, officials announced Friday.

Investigators said that they were waiting for Russia to hand over key documents which Poland has asked for repeatedly.

Seremet said that a separate civilian probe would be launched into the organisation of Kaczynski’s flight, as well as that of a plane carrying journalists which landed in Smolensk hours before.

Conspiracy theories about the crash have circulated in Poland, notably among hardline supporters of the conservative, nationalist Kaczynski, long a vocal foe of Moscow.

They have fed into long-standing antipathy over the 1940 Katyn massacre, which has long poisoned Polish-Russian ties — notably because Moscow pinned the blame on Nazi Germany until 1990, and was still rarely discussed in Russia after the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.