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Russia confirms arrests over Polish crash fraud: reports

Russia confirmed Tuesday at least three Russian soldiers had been detained on suspicion of using a credit card belonging to a victim of the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski, news agencies reported.

Polish officials had on Sunday announced that members of the Russian security forces had been arrested for posthumously defrauding one of its top national heritage officials.

But Russian interior ministry officials had on Monday denied this was the case.

The ITAR-TASS news agency said that the Russian authorities had detained three conscripts who worked at the military airport in western Russia where Kaczynski’s plane crashed on April 10, killing him and 95 others.

“Three conscripts in a unit servicing the Severny airport where the Polish plane No. 1 was due to have landed have been detained on suspicion of this crime,” an informed source in the security services told the ITAR-TASS news agency Tuesday.

“The investigation already has a number of pieces of evidence that prove their guilt.”

A senior source in the Russian security services told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that four soldiers had been released after signing written pledges not to travel.

The investigation continues into the four suspects, who were drafted into the air force and have the rank of private, the source said.

A total of 6,000 zlotys (1,500 euros) were withdrawn from the bank account of Andrezej Przewoznik, who headed Poland’s national war memorial committee, Polish officials have said.

He was part of the Polish delegation heading to Katyn near the western Russian city of Smolensk for a ceremony marking the 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish army officers at the orders of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

The scandal casts a shadow on the reconciliation seen between Russia and Poland after the crash, which saw two countries which have often been at loggerheads united in shared grief.