Polish president dies in plane crash

2010-04-10 09:47

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and scores of other people were

killed on Saturday when the president’s plane crashed on landing in the western

Russian city of Smolensk, officials said.

The Smolensk regional governor, Sergei Antufiev, said the plane

clipped treetops as it approached to land at an airport outside Smolensk and

crashed, breaking into several pieces.

Russian television broadcast live footage showing the plane’s

wreckage scattered in a forest with parts of it still on fire.

Russian news agencies reported there were at least 80 people aboard

the plane - some reports said there were as many as 132 people on board - and

Antufiev said no one had survived.

“It clipped the tops of the trees, crashed down and broke into

pieces,” the governor of the Smolensk region, Sergei Antufiev, told Russia-24

television news network by telephone from Smolensk.

No survivors

The television pictures showed the plane broken into many pieces,

including engines and a huge chunk of the plane’s vertical stabiliser caked in

mud, strewn over a large area in forest that was blanketed with fog.

Firefighters were dousing water on portions of the plane that were

still ablaze while groups of security personnel in camouflage uniforms and

clusters of investigators in civilian clothes inspected the wreckage.

The Russian foreign ministry told Interfax news agency that the

plane had crashed in heavy fog. Officials in Warsaw confirmed that Kaczynski was

aboard the plane that crashed and Russian television broadcast video shot

earlier on Saturday of the president and his wife boarding the plane in

Warsaw.

Polish foreign ministry spokesperson Piotr Pszkowski said that the

army chief of staff and Deputy Foreign Minsiter Andrzej Kremer were also on

board the plane.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev immediately appointed Prime

Minister Vladimir Putin as the head of a commission to investigate the crash and

sent Russia’s emergency situations minister, Sergei Shoigu, to the site.

The aircraft crashed a few hundred metres short of the runway at

the Severny airport outside Smolensk, ITAR-TASS news agency reported, quoting

rescuers at the site.

The flight data recorders of the plane had not yet been located but

experts were on the scene and the search for them was under way, ITAR-TASS

said.

Kaczynski, the identical twin brother of former prime minister

Jaroslaw, was on his way to attend commemorative ceremonies at the forest of

Katyn in western Russia where 22 000 Poles were killed by Soviet troops 70 years

ago.

The crash of his plane occurred three days after Putin and his

Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, together attended a memorial for the victims of

the massacre at Katyn.

The Putin-Tusk meeting there was seen as a huge symbolic advance in

Russia’s often thorny relations with Poland.



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