The demonstration, held on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the fatal Polish presidential air crash in western Russia, was organised by a network of regional groups linked to the conservative Gazeta Polska weekly and known as Gazeta Polska Clubs.
Those gathered demanded that Russia return the wreckage as well as the flight recorders of the Polish presidential Tu-154 plane, which crashed near its western city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010.
Demonstrators hailing from various areas in Poland and abroad held Polish national flags and banners with messages such as "Smolensk 2010. We Remember." They chanted slogans against Russian President Vladimir Putin, the PAP news agency reported.
Plane 'not destroyed as a result of a disaster'
Tomasz Sakiewicz, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Polska, said during Monday's demonstration that the 2010 crash was a result of foul play and a “plot” masterminded by Russia.
“The plane was not destroyed as a result of a disaster,” Sakiewicz said, adding that a Polish commission reinvestigating the crash “will probably confirm this.”
Sakiewicz also said that Putin, whom he labeled as “the worst international criminal,” will “sooner or later … be prosecuted and convicted for what he did.”
Putin late last year denied Polish suggestions that the plane was probably destroyed by a mid-air explosion.
Speaking at his annual end-of-year news conference in December, Putin said he was tired of hearing allegations from Warsaw that the 2010 air crash was the result of a Russian conspiracy.
Russia has argued that it cannot return the wreckage because it is conducting its own ongoing investigation into the Smolensk disaster and that the wreckage represents evidence in that probe.
Meanwhile, Adam Borowski, head of the Warsaw Club of Gazeta Polska, said on Monday that Russian investigators “did everything they could to erase the traces.” He said the plane wreckage had been “destroyed, cut into pieces, its windows broken, stolen away, and finally washed and whatever was left of the plane was thrown under a tarpaulin.”
Borowski also said that "no one has been held accountable" for the disaster so far. He argued that Poland’s previous authorities "must bear responsibility, even before the State Tribunal."
The demonstration ended with those gathered singing the Polish national anthem. No incidents were reported, according to PAP.
Hints of foul play
A new Polish commission reinvestigating the 2010 crash said in April last year that the plane was probably destroyed by a mid-air explosion and that Russian air traffic controllers deliberately misled Polish pilots about their location as they neared the runway.
The new commission, which is still probing the crash, was set up by Poland’s conservative governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in 2015.
The party is headed by Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of Poland’s late President Lech Kaczyński.
PiS has long challenged an official report into the crash issued by the previous Polish government which cited a catalogue of errors on the Polish side, while also pointing to errors made by Russian staff at the control tower of Smolensk Military Airport.
A Russian report placed all the blame on the Poles.