Plane Crash May Strain Poland’s Ties With Russia
WARSAW " A plane carrying the Polish president and dozens of the country’s top political and military leaders to the site of a Soviet massacre of Polish officers in World War II crashed in western Russia on Saturday, killing everyone on board.
President Lech Kaczynski’s plane tried to land in a thick fog, missing the runway and snagging treetops about half a mile from the airport in Smolensk, scattering chunks of fuselage across a bare forest.
The crash came as a stunning blow to Poland, wiping out a large portion of the country’s leadership in one fiery explosion. And in a chilling twist, it happened at the moment that Russia and Poland were beginning to come to terms with the killing of more than 20,000 members of Poland’s elite officer corps in the same place 70 years ago.
“It is a damned place,” former President Aleksander Kwasniewski told TVN24. “It sends shivers down my spine.”
“This is a wound which will be very difficult to heal,” he said.
A top Russian military official said air traffic controllers at the Smolensk airport had several times ordered the crew of the plane not to land, warned that it was descending below the glide path and recommended it reroute to another airport.
“Nevertheless, the crew continued the descent,” said Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Alyoshin, the first deputy chief of the Russian Air Force Staff. “Unfortunately, the result was tragic.”
Russian emergency officials said 97 people were killed. They included Poland’s deputy foreign minister and a dozen members of Parliament, the chiefs of the army and the navy, and the president of the national bank. They included Anna Walentynowicz, 80, the former dock worker whose firing in 1980 set off the Solidarity strike that ultimately overthrew Polish Communism, as well as relatives of victims of the massacre that they were on their way to commemorate.
Poles united in their grief in a way that recalled the death of the Polish pope, John Paul II, five years ago. Thousands massed outside the Presidential Palace, laying flowers and lighting candles.............
Sounds as though the pilot(s?) were completely ignoring the control tower!? Could be political though. Wait and see I guess.