Poland losing patience over Smolensk crash data

 

POLAND HAS accused Russia of failing to hand over crucial evidence relating to the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people in April.

“The Polish side will be waiting for information and explanations about the reasons hampering the Russian side in forwarding the appropriate documents,” Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said yesterday. “Now, when the probe is entering its final phase, our co-operation is worse than at the beginning,” he added.

Mr Kaczynski’s aircraft crashed as it tried to land at fog-bound Smolensk airport in western Russia. The president and his group – which included his wife and many of Poland’s senior political, military and financial figures – were travelling to a commemoration ceremony at Katyn, where Soviet forces massacred more than 20,000 Polish officers in 1940.

Poland praised Russia’s initial response to the disaster, and both sides suggested that the tragedy could help them improve a relationship that has long been characterised by rancour and mistrust.

But Warsaw has become increasingly frustrated with Russia’s investigation, and its apparent unwillingness to hand over all the information that it has collected since the April 10th crash.

“The problems have begun. The Russians don’t want to make materials available,” said Bogdan Klich, Poland’s lead investigator in the case, whom Mr Tusk asked to file a formal complaint with Russian investigators about their failure to provide access to key evidence.

Poland’s interior minister, Jerzy Miller, said Moscow’s failure to forward the material was delaying Warsaw’s probe into the crash.

“Several weeks ago I submitted a list of documents that are of interest to the Polish commission but which it has not yet received.”

Russia’s apparent reluctance to let Poland see all its evidence is fuelling conspiracy theories about the crash, particularly given the two countries’ traditional enmity and the late Mr Kaczynski’s reputation as a critic of the Kremlin.

Speculation also surrounds the possible role of Mr Kaczynski or his aides in ordering or putting pressure the pilots to land in thick fog at Smolensk.

Polish media claim that cockpit voice recordings – whose bad sound quality made the exact words unclear – revealed the pilot had said “if I don’t land, he’ll kill me”.

Officials refused to comment on the reports.