The body of Lech Kaczyński, the late Polish president, arrived at Okęcie Military Airport near Warsaw on Sunday afternoon. His casket, draped in the red and white flag of the Polish Republic, was greeted by his twin brother and daughter, along with other family members and top government officials. The casket was transferred by a motorcade to the Presidential Palace. It made its way through the streets of Warsaw, which remain thronging with massive crowds of hundreds of thousands of people who have been waiting for hours to pay their respects.
The remains of President Kaczyński were transferred to representatives of the Polish government by Russian authorities earlier in the day. Vladimir Putin presided over a farewell ceremony in Smolensk before the casket was flown back to Polish soil. In the ceremony, Putin laid flowers on the casket and spoke to Poles grieving over the loss of their president and so many important figures.
Putin has assumed personal responsibility for the investigation of the crash, and met Saturday with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk near the site of the crash in Russia. He has also offered both public and private condolences, stating: “This is clearly first and foremost a tragedy for Poland and the Polish nation, but it is also our tragedy. We feel great pain along with you and we are living through this with the same difficulty you are. In the name of the Russian Federation we wish to extend our most sincere expression of sympathy to all of Poland and to all Poles”.
Putin also assured Tusk that the investigation commission that he will head will do everything possible to support the families of victims who are planning to travel to Russia. A day of mourning has been announced by Putin and Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev in Russia, set for 12 April. In addition, Russian television station Rossija-1 will be broadcasting on Sunday night Adrzej Wajda’s Academy Award-nominated film portraying the Katyń massacre of members of the Polish intellectual and military elite by Soviet secret services in 1940.
The decisions concerning funeral arrangements for the presidential couple are to be made by the family in the coming days. The remaining bodies will be returned to Poland over the next three to four days as they are identified. Identification of the remains, which were taken to Moscow, is underway.