PM Donald Tusk at the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw on the 4th anniversary of the Smolensk air disaster: photo - PAP/Radek Pietruszka
At 08.41 am local time this morning a trumpet played at the Powązki Military Cemetery in the Polish capital, the precise time four years ago when the TU-154 aircraft, carrying politicians, officials and top military brass to a WWII Katyn massacre remembrance ceremony crashed in a field near the Smolensk military airport in western Russia.
The official ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Deputy Prime Minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz and members of the victims' families
As the trumpet sounded the names of the 96 victims were read out and prayers were said at the cemetery where 28 of the dead are buried.
Events are also taking place in cities around Poland, including Bialystok, Czestochowa, Elblag, Gdansk, Gdynia and Lublin, Nowy Sacz, Radom, Sopot, Wroclaw, Zakopane and Zielona Gora.
At the same time as the official ceremony was under way at Powązki cemetery, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) opposition party and identical twin brother of the late president, attended mass at a church in Warsaw and then gathered with supporters outside the Presidential Palace to pay their respects to the dead.
From left: Law and Justice politicians Marek Kuchciński, Jarosław Kaczyński, Mariusz Błaszczak and Joachim Brudziński lead unofficial commemorations to the 96 who died during the Smolensk air disaster: photo - PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has rejected official explanations of the cause of the Smolensk air disaster, with reports by both Poland and Russia finding that poor visibility and human error were behind the crash of the TU-154.
Kaczynski and members of his Law and Justice party have referred in the past to the "assassination" of President Lech Kaczynski and a report will be released today by MP Antoni Macierewicz which will claim that an explosion brought down the plane four years ago.
On Monday, however, Poland's top military prosecutor Colonel Ireneusz Szelag presented 1300 pages of documentation rejecting the theory that an explosion caused the air crash.
“After analysing 700 samples, experts found no traces of an explosion taking place aboard the TU-154,” he said.
There is also anger by supporters of the late president that Russia has yet to return the wreck of the TU-154, though Moscow says that investigations are still ongoing.
A demonstration organised by the right-wing Gazeta Polska newspaper outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw on Wednesday night called for the return of the plane wreck and other key evidence into the causes of the disaster.
An opinion poll for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily by the Millward Brown pollster found that one-in-four (23 percent) of respondents believe that the death of President Kaczynski was the result of an "assassination” – an increase of six percent from a similar poll on the 3rd anniversary of the disaster. (pg)