A White House spokesperson has said that President Obama will not attend the funeral of President Lech Kaczyński and First Lady Maria Kaczyńska tomorrow due to the flight restrictions caused by the Icelandic volcano. The U.S. will be represented by the country’s ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein, who also attended today’s memorial in Warsaw.
President Obama issued a statement after the announcement: “Michelle and I continue to have the Polish people in our thoughts and prayers, and will support them in any way I can as they recover from this terrible tragedy. President Kaczynski was a patriot and close friend and ally of the United States, as were those who died alongside him, and the American people will never forget the lives they led.”
Amongst other world leaders, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also cancelled his plans to attend with a delegation of Polish-Canadians. French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend, though it is still not certain whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be able to. Several leaders, such as the Latvian president and Estonian prime minister, will make the trip by car rather than by air.
The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano has grounded planes all over Europe this week, with airspace in Poland closed completely since yesterday. Krakow’s Balice airport will be closed tomorrow, only allowing official air traffic carrying delegates travelling to the funeral ceremony.