Poland axes 13 top officers after plane crash report: PM

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Three Polish air force generals and 10 other top officers have been fired after a probe into last year's plane crash that killed president Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday.

Tusk told reporters he had accepted the decision to fire the officers taken by new Defence Minister Tomasz Siemioniak, whose predecessor Bogdan Klich quit Friday after an inquiry found that the military crew of Kaczynski's plane were ill-trained and ill-prepared.

Tusk said that Czeslaw Piatas, a deputy defence minister, was also leaving his job, and that the air force unit responsible for transporting top officials would be disbanded.

Kaczynski, his wife and all 94 other Poles including most of the country's military top brass died on April 10, 2010 when Warsaw's presidential jet crashed in Smolensk, western Russia.

The plane's pilots attempted to land in fog ahead of a memorial ceremony in the nearby Katyn forest for thousands of Polish prisoners of war slain by the Soviets in 1940.

Friday's long-awaited report from a Polish government commission said the pilots of the Russian-made Tupolev-154 made a series of errors and blamed hasty, haphazard training that violated regulations.

The navigator's Russian was weak, and the meteorological information was incomplete, the inquiry commission said, while also pointing to shortcomings at Smolensk airport.

The commission ruled out sabotage and pressure from third parties on the crew to land for the high-profile anniversary ceremony despite the weather.

On Tuesday, investigators in Russia insisted that Poland's air force chief, who perished in the crash, had pushed the pilots to land come what may.

Russian investigators have said the direct cause of the crash was the failure of the crew to divert to a substitute airport after learning of the poor weather conditions at Smolensk.

© 2011 AFP

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