Polish defence minister quits after crash report: PM

29th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich resigned after a damning report into last year's air crash in Russia that killed president Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday.

The report indicted the armed forces, saying the crew of Kaczynski's plane were ill-trained and ill-prepared.

"Defence Minister Bogdan Klich handed me his resignation yesterday and I accepted it today," Tusk told journalists following the publication of the report commissioned by the government.

He said he would nominate deputy interior minister Tomasz Siemoniak to take his place.

The report said the pilots of the jet made a series of errors as they approached Smolensk airport in fog in April last year with Kaczynski and scores of other top officials aboard.

"The aircraft commander, co-pilot, and navigator had been trained hastily, haphazardly, and in violation of the respective training regulations," it said.

The navigator's Russian was weak, and the meteorological information was incomplete, the inquiry commission said, while also pointing at faults on the Russian side.

"The commission has carried out its role well, in defining precisely the causes of the disaster," Tusk said.

It had ruled out "extremist versions" of the events that had been circulating, including sabotage and pressure from third parties on the crew to land despite the weather, he said.

The report also included what had been missed out of earlier Russian findings, in other words "errors and shortcomings at the Smolensk airport," he added.

"I have never said and I will never say that Bogdan Klich is responsible for the disaster," Tusk said, but he had "recognised that it would be more difficult to implement the report's recommendations if he stayed on as defence minister."

The prime minister said it would be up to Polish prosecutors to probe any individual responsibility.

Military prosecutor Krzysztof Parulski warned Tuesday of charges against military officers. Other sources said they could target organisers of the flight and pilot training.

© 2011 AFP

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