Russian and Polish officials charged over Smoleńsk plane crash that killed Poland’s President

Prosecutors in Poland have charged two Russian air traffic controllers and two Polish air force officials in connection with the death of former President Lech Kaczyński and 95 other high ranking military and government officials in a plane crash at Smoleńsk in April 2010.

Colonel Ireneusz Szelag, the prosecutor for the Warsaw region, said Poland had made a formal request to Moscow to interview the Russians. The Russian investigative committee has said it has found ‘no irregularities’ in the actions of the men in the Smoleńsk tower so far. The Polish air force officials have also denied the allegations.

In a statement on March 27, Col Szelag said the Polish investigation had concluded that the Russian air traffic controllers put the flight at risk when they allowed the crew to attempt a landing in fog, and with imprecise instructions. The Polish officials, said Col Szelag, are accused of appointing crew members who did not have the experience or qualifications to fly such a high profile mission in bad weather.

Colonel Szelag said the Russians faced up to eight years in jail if they were tried in Poland and found guilty of ‘unintentionally causing the crash’. He did not reveal the full details of the prosecution’s case.

The Presidential TU-154 crashed at Smoleńsk airport in the morning of April 10, 2010. The passengers included the President, his wife, and military and political top brass. They had been on their way to attend a ceremony of remembrance for the Polish officers murdered en masse by the Soviet army at Katyń in 1940.

The European Parliament could decide on April 10 whether to pass a motion formally calling on Moscow to return the wreck and black box recorder of the plane, both of which have been held in Russia since the crash.

(via Inside Poland)

4 thoughts on “Russian and Polish officials charged over Smoleńsk plane crash that killed Poland’s President

  • Avatar
    March 28, 2015 at 3:16 pm
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    The only Person which is to blame is the Polish Pilot and Presidential Organization. The Pilot flew far too low. far lower as the YAK-42 Pilot 30 Minutes before. Poland Administration neglected warnings from Minsk Control and Smolensk Control Center. The Report from 2010 is fair and acuurate in every detail. In case of Risk Management the failure is only by the Polish Government to fly in one instead of two or three planes.
    You may not agree with Russian politics but thats no reason too accuse the Country for something they have warned you many times. The Polish Pilot flew straight in a large tree. The Crew was inexperienced especially with the TU-154. The TU-154 can land on every terrain don’t need an Asphalt surface. A military Airport is not required to keep ILS Systems. There is no need for any interview as they are in the report. Fact is that every high experienced Military Pilot would bring that Machine down – even with heavy fog as the Russian Yakowlev-42 Pilot 30 Minutes before.

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  • Avatar
    March 30, 2015 at 12:08 am
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    Peter: The role of prosecutors is to act if the laws had been possibly broken. This is different from “cause”, “fault” or “guilt”. Legal framework. Apparently there is a reason to think the people charged had broken laws, enough to have this argued in court. Even if it is clear to the prosecutor that there are good reasons to argue both ways, prosecutor’s job is to bring the case to court attention to decide “how it really Is”. Prosecutor’s charge is far from conviction.

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    • Avatar
      March 30, 2015 at 12:31 am
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      When the law was broken then in Russian jurisdiction and therefore the polish Prosecuter can olny charge the Pilot or someone from the Government for orders in “Polish Airspace” but not in Russian one.
      The Prosecutor neglected the official report.

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  • Avatar
    March 30, 2015 at 12:36 pm
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    Peter: I am not a legal expert, but the legal issue is I think not as simple as you write. In case of possible violation of the international law (treaty) to which Russia was a party, I guess any state with the interest in the case can ask Russia to “prosecute or extradite”. To invoke this rule, the charges must be formulated, so they were. Aviation is subject to a number of international treaties, hence the legal foundation. I understand Russia is free to consider the charges (and defense) in own court (where Polish prosecutors would be in some way represented as a party).

    All in all I see this as a way to clear things up. Prosecutors combed through the case and have found some POSSIBLE instances of breaking the laws. Now it is up to court to hear all arguments and decide if there was breach of the law or not. And this is a proper way to close this thing. Actually from everybody’s point of view this is positive I think – these were the ONLY charges. No charges of foul play.

    The “official investigations” you mentioned are a different story. These were some “expert panel” conclusions – this is different from a court case when different (not necessarily sane) opinions are presented and argued. Prosecutors are in no way bound by “expert opinions” (which they would were to choose?) – this is court’s job to weigh.

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