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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 criticises Russian ‘Smolensk Report’

Polish PM Donald Tusk has criticised an investigation by Russia into a deadly plane crash which killed the country’s president in April.

He said it was “unacceptable” and some conclusions “without foundation”.

Russia recently handed Poland a draft report of the incident after months of investigation, though it has not been made public.

Former President Lech Kaczynski and other senior officials were among 96 people killed in the crash.

The plane came down near the western Russian town of Smolensk.

‘Without foundation’

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

“From the Polish point of view, the draft report from the Russian side as it has been sent is without question unacceptable,” he said in televised comments to reporters in Brussels.

“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.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Poland last week and reiterated a promise to cooperate over the crash investigation.

Poland’s first couple – along with other leading political and military figures – were on their way to a memorial ceremony for the World War II Katyn massacre when their plane crashed in poor weather on 10 April.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was praised for his sensitive handling of the situation in the aftermath of the crash, which killed all those on board.

KRAKOW TOURS

 

December 17, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Poles go to the Polls

KRAKOW TOURS – Polish polling stations have opened for a snap presidential election forced by the death of conservative president Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in April.

Among the candidates are the late president’s identical twin as well as the interim president Bronislaw Komorowski, who is ahead in the polls.

Candidate Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he wanted to run for the presidency to safeguard his brother’s legacy after he died in the plane crash in Russia which also killed 95 others including many high-ranking politicians.

But despite his association with the popular former president, reaffirmed by a visit to his tomb on their joint 61st birthday on Friday, surveys have still given his rival Komorowski a five to 18 point lead.

Kaczynski has managed to close the gap with Komorowski in recent weeks, putting both rivals way ahead of the eight other candidates, and threatening the chance of Komorowski securing the 50% majority he needs for a first round victory.

If neither candidate wins the first round vote, a run-off ballot is scheduled for July 4.

Although the election has been branded the strangest in Poland’ post-Communist history, it will define the country’s relations with Europe and Russia.

Kaczynski, a former prime minister, is a Eurosceptic who is known for being deeply conservative and nationalistic while his rival is more liberal. However, some have said that the former president’s death has cast a shadow over the election, causing candidates to tone down their rhetoric.

The late president Lech Kaczynski was expected to have bid for a second term in a race against Komorowski. Kaczynski and his wife Maria were on a presidential jet that crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, on April 10. They were en route to ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of a Soviet WWII massacre of Polish officers in the nearby Katyn forest.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Krakow Funeral – A Race Against Time

KRAKOW TOURS – Frantic preparations are ongoing in Krakow, where the funeral ceremony is to be held on Sunday for the late president Lech Kaczynski, and his wife Maria.

Details have been released about the funeral ceremony for Maria and Lech Kaczynski, who both tragically died along with 94 other people in last Saturday’s plane crash in Smolensk, reports Polish Radio correspondent John Beauchamp in Krakow.

After the mourning ceremony in Warsaw on Saturday, the coffins carrying the presidential couple will be flown to Krakow, where they will lie in state in St. Mary’s Basilica on Krakow’s Main Market Square at 10am. Around 1000 people are expected to be allowed to enter the church: however, the funeral procession, which will lead down from the Basilica to the Wawel Cathedral, will be a closed, private affair.

Details of the tomb have also been released: it is to be made out of alabaster, and will be placed in the vestibule of the crypt of one of Poland’s national heroes, Marshall Józef Piłsudski, but not next to Piłsudski himself.

The resting place is to measure 250 by 170 cm, and will be installed on a granite plinth.

Speaking to TVN24 news channel earlier on Thursday, Cardinal Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow, said that the crypt will also house a plaque with all the names of the people who died in the Smolensk plane crash. It is being speculated that in the future a plaque commemorating all the murdered at Katyn in 1940 will also be housed in the crypt under Wawel Cathedral.

Painting grass green

Krakow is preparing itself for a total lockdown, Sunday, as VIPs from around the world are expected to visit the city for this sombre occasion. Most of the Old Town is to be closed, streets cleaned and emptied of stalls and rubbish. Last-minute renovation works are also taking place with workers even painting the grass around Wawel a brighter colour of green.

Thousands of special agents are supposedly already in Krakow, with a US Secret Service plane landing at Krakow’s Balice airport yesterday. On Sunday the heart of Krakow will be cut off from the world as mobile phone networks will be switched off, and in the skies a NATO AWACS radar plane as well as fighter jets will be patrolling airspace around the city.

As the number of visitors is expected reach over 500,000, large screens will be spread throughout the city relaying the ceremony on the Market Square and Wawel Hill. One of these is to be placed on the Błonie meadow, a place usually connected with Papal masses and large outdoor gatherings.

courtesy Polskie Radio

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, News, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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