Poles still divided over Russia crash five years on

10th April 2015, Comments 0 comments

Poles on Friday marked the fifth anniversary of the deadly plane crash in Russia that killed then president Lech Kaczynski and 95 officials, amid continued controversy over the causes.

With the May 10 presidential elections just around the corner and fresh leaks of cockpit transcripts, opposition politicians allege the accident was a political assassination that the government is trying to hush up.

Polish military investigators have found no suggestion of foul play in the crash, that occurred in thick fog at a derelict military air strip in Smolensk, 360 kilometres (225 miles) southwest of Moscow.

Earlier this week transcripts of cockpit recordings leaked by local media pointed to superiors pressuring military pilots into making the risky landing in extremely bad weather.

Two competing sets of memorial ceremonies took place Friday in Warsaw.

Outgoing centrist President Bronislaw Komorowski, expected to win a second term in May, and centre-right Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz paid tribute to the victims at the historic Powazki military cemetery.

Meanwhile, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the president who died and leader of the official opposition, laid a floral wreath in front of a large cross of burning candles outside the presidential palace.

He was joined by several hundred mostly elderly supporters of his conservative Law and Justice (PiS), who continue to insist the crash was no accident.

"It was an attack, for sure," Warsaw pensioner Stanislaw Kornaszewski, sporting a "Polish and proud" badge, told AFP.

He alleges that the centre-right coalition government of the time -- and in power now -- had been "set up by military intelligence on orders from Moscow."

Opinion polls show that about 20 percent of Poles share that view, a figure that broadly reflects the number of PiS voters.

Memorial marches are planned later Friday in Warsaw, while an official state delegation is visiting the crash site in Smolensk.

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted her respects Friday.

"5 years since the tragic plane crash in #Smolensk: our thoughts are with all people of #Poland. #NeverForget."

The deadly crash occurred as a state delegation including the central bank head and military chief of staff headed for memorial ceremonies in Russia's Katyn forest for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre the Kremlin denied until 1990.

© 2015 AFP

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