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Russia Blames Polish Pilot Error For Smolensk Crash.

Russia has blamed the Smolensk air crash which killed the Polish president and nearly 100 other people in April on Polish pilot error.

The Polish crew failed to heed bad weather warnings because they were afraid of displeasing President Lech Kaczynski, Russian investigators said.

The presence of Poland’s air force commander in the cockpit drove them to take “unjustified risk”, they said.

Poland’s prime minister has cut short a holiday in response to the report.

A government spokesman said Donald Tusk was returning to Poland for talks with Poland’s lead crash investigator, Jerzy Miller.

Last month, Mr Tusk sharply criticised a draft version of the Russian report.

Russia’s handling of the disaster had previously been widely commended.

President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, spanning the country’s military and political elite, were killed when their airliner came down in heavy fog near the western Russian city of Smolensk. There were no survivors.

They had been on their way to a memorial ceremony for Poles massacred by Stalin’s secret police at Katyn during World War II.

Tatyana Anodina, head of the Inter-state Aviation Committee (Mak) in Moscow, told reporters that the final report had been handed to Polish colleagues.

The Soviet-made Tu-154 plane, she said, had been in good condition when it took off from Warsaw en route to Smolensk’s Severny airport, and it suffered no engine or flight system failures.

The jet was piloted by Captain Arkadiusz Protasiuk (left) and Major Robert Grzywna

Before impact, there was no fire, explosion or other damage in the air, she continued.

The disaster resulted directly, she said, from the crew’s failure to heed weather warnings and land at a different airport.

“During the flight, the crew were repeatedly informed of inadequate weather conditions at the destination airport,” she said.

“Despite this, the crew of the Tu-154 did not take a decision to switch to a back-up airfield. This may be considered as the start of the extreme situation aboard the plane.”

The Russian investigation found “substantial deficiencies” in the training given to Captain Arkadiusz Protasiuk and his co-pilot, Major Robert Grzywna, Ms Anodina said.

The two men had feared a “negative reaction” from President Kaczynski if they switched to the other airfield, according to the Russian investigator.

“The main passenger’s expected negative reaction… placed psychological pressure on crew members and influenced the decision to continue the landing,” she said.

The jet’s flight recorder caught one of the crew saying “He’ll get mad”, in an apparent reference to the Polish president’s determination not to alter his schedule.

Poland’s air force commander, Gen Andrzej Blasik, added to the pressure by entering the flight deck, Ms Anodina noted.

“The presence of the Polish air force commander on the flight deck up to the aircraft’s impact with the ground put psychological pressure on the crew captain to decide on continuing descent in a situation of unjustified risk, dominated by the goal of making a landing at any cost,” she said.

According to pathology tests, alcohol was found in the blood of Gen Blasik in a concentration of 0.6 grams per litre – just above the drink-driving limit for most EU states.

Investigators found that a top Polish foreign ministry official, Mariusz Kazana, had also entered the flight deck at one point.

At the news conference in Moscow, they played back the flight recorder tape of the pilots’ final minutes, including conversations with Russian air traffic controllers.

Just before the recording ends, an automatic recorded message in English from the plane’s Terrain Awareness and Warning System can be heard exhorting the crew to “pull up, pull up”.

In December, Mr Tusk described a draft of the Russian report as “unacceptable”, saying some of its conclusions were unfounded.

Without revealing details, he said it did not comply fully with the Chicago Convention which regulates international air travel.

“This negligence and mistakes, or lack of positive reaction to what Poland has been asking for, all these things allow us to say that some of the report’s conclusions are without foundation,” he added.

On Wednesday, Mak official Alexei Morozov said his investigation had amended its report with regard to technical criticisms made by Polish investigators.

But other amendments suggested by the Poles relating to responsibility for the crash were not included in the report as they were non-technical, Mr Morozov said.

These amendments would, he added, be contained in an appendix to the report.

Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, recently said he doubted that the body entombed in a Polish cathedral last year was that of his brother.

“When I saw the body that was brought back in a coffin to Poland, that person did not look like my brother,” he told reporters last month.

BBC Full Report

January 12, 2011 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Poland decides on new President today

KRAKOW TOURS – The people of Poland are voting in a run-off election to determine the country’s next president. Observers say the final result between Bronislaw Komorowski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski could be close.

Mr Komorowski has been acting president since his predecessor, Mr Kaczynski’s twin brother Lech, was killed in a plane crash as he travelled to Russia in April.

Results are expected to be released on Monday.

The election has been dominated by the crash. Poland’s first couple and 94 other people died when their plane came down in Smolensk on 10 April as they flew to attend a memorial ceremony for the World War II Katyn massacre.

The contests pits the business-oriented Bronislaw Komorowski from the ruling centrist Civic Platform against the conservative Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the main opposition Law and Justice party.

Mr Komorowski won 41.5% in the first round and Mr Kaczynski 36.5%. Eight other candidates were eliminated.

Final opinion polls before Sunday’s voting got under way suggested a close call, with floating voters certain to be pivotal.

Komorowski’s support ranged from 45 to 54%, and Kaczynski’s from 42 to 45%, AFP news agency reports.

Mr Komorowski’s supporters see him working well with Prime Minister Donald Tusk in trying to curb fiscal deficit.

Mr Komorowski, 58, said at his rally on Friday: “You have the choice between a politician who harbours resentment and grudges, and the future, with an optimistic vision of Poland.”

Mr Kaczynski’s supporters hope a victory for their candidate would curb cuts in public spending.

He said on Friday: “This election began with a tragedy. I hope it will end with a great success for Poland.”

Mr Kaczynski, 61, served as prime minister but was voted out of office in 2007.

The BBC’s Adam Easton in Warsaw says Mr Kaczynski has tried to present himself as a changed man, prepared to compromise with opponents, in the wake of his own personal loss.

The Polish president has a role in foreign affairs and the power to propose and veto legislation, although policy is set by the prime minister.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided taking sides during her visit to Poland on Saturday.

“Whichever candidate is chosen, the United States will continue to be your friend and partner,” she said.

July 4, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Polish President Lech Kaczynski dies in plane crash

President Lech Kaczynski and scores of other senior Polish figures have been killed in a plane crash in Russia.

Polish and Russian officials said no-one survived after the plane apparently hit trees as it approached Smolensk airport in thick fog.

Poland’s army chief, central bank governor, MPs and leading historians were among more than 80 passengers.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the crash was the most tragic event of the country’s post-World War II history.

The Polish delegation was flying in from Warsaw to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of thousands of Poles by Soviet forces during WWII.

The BBC’s Adam Easton, in Warsaw, says the crash is a catastrophe for the Polish people.

He says Prime Minister Tusk was reportedly in tears when he was told.

After an emergency meeting of ministers, Mr Tusk, who runs the day-to-day business of government, said a week of national mourning had been declared with two minutes of silence on Sunday at midday.

He said he would travel immediately to the site of the crash, in Smolensk. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir said he would go to Smolensk on Saturday as well, Russian news agencies reported.

Mr Tusk added: “The Polish state must function and will function”.

A government spokesman said that according to the constitution there would be an early presidential election, and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, would be acting president.

In Warsaw, people have been gathering outside the presidential palace to lay flowers and light candles.

“I’m all broken up… it cannot be expressed in words,” Ewa Robaczewska told Reuters news agency.

Pilot error?

The Russian emergencies ministry told Itar-Tass news agency the plane crashed at 1056 Moscow time (0656 GMT).

Smolensk regional governor Sergei Antufiev told Russian TV that no-one had survived.

“As it was preparing for landing, the Polish president’s aircraft did not make it to the landing strip,” he said.

“According to preliminary reports, it got caught up in the tops of trees, fell to the ground and broke up into pieces. There are no survivors in that crash.”

Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said it could be assumed with “great certainty” that no-one had survived.

“We still cannot fully understand the scope of this tragedy and what it means for us in the future. Nothing like this has ever happened in Poland,” Mr Paszkowski said.

Polish TV worker Slawomir Wisniewski said he had seen the crash from his hotel near the airport.

“I saw through the fog, the aeroplane flying very low with the left wing pointing to the ground,” he said.

“I heard something being broken and then that thudding sound. Two flashes of fire next to each other.”

It is unclear how many people were on board. Polish officials said the delegation was 88-strong, while local officials said 96 people had been killed.

Russian investigators had earlier said there were 132 people on the plane.

Russian media carried claims that the plane’s crew were at fault for the crash.

“Flight controllers at Severnyy aerodrome suggested that the plane be forwarded to Minsk but as far as we know the crew took an independent decision to land the plane in Smolensk,” Smolensk regional government spokesman Andrei Yevseyenkov told Russian TV.

Mr Putin said the bodies of those killed in the crash would be taken to Moscow for identification, Russian media said.

Controversial figure

The president was flying in a Tupolev 154, a Soviet-designed plane that was more than 20 years old.

Our correspondent says there had been calls for Polish leaders to upgrade their planes.

Mr Kaczynski himself had suffered scares while using the plane in late 2008, when problems with the aircraft’s steering mechanism delayed his departure from Mongolia. It was then caught up in turbulence flying to Seoul.

“Any flight brings with it a certain risk, but a very serious risk attaches to the responsibilities of a president, because it is necessary to fly constantly,” he was quoted as saying at the time.

But the head of Russia’s Aviakor aviation maintenance company told Russian TV the plane was airworthy, after his plant fully overhauled it in December.

As well as the president and his wife, Maria, a number of senior officials were on the passenger list.

They included the army chief of staff Gen Franciszek Gagor, central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek and deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer.

World leaders including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered their condolences to Poland.

Mr Kaczynski, who had fewer powers than the prime minister but had a significant say in foreign policy, was a controversial figure in Polish politics.

He had advocated a right-wing Catholic agenda, opposed rapid free-market reforms and favoured retaining social welfare programmes.

Courtesy of BBC

April 10, 2010 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

   

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