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Presidential plane fell apart in the air: commission chief

PR dla Zagranicy
Roberto Galea 10.04.2017 07:58
The Polish presidential plane which crashed in Smolensk, western Russia, seven years ago, fell apart in the air, said the head of a commission investigating the crash.
The wreckage of the plane has not been returned to Poland. Photo: PAP/Yuri KochetkovThe wreckage of the plane has not been returned to Poland. Photo: PAP/Yuri Kochetkov

Speaking to the public TVP broadcaster on Monday, Wacław Berczyński, who heads a new commission tasked with probing the factors which led to the crash, said that evidence shows that the plane fell apart while still in the air.

The statement suggests that the plane was brought down by factors other than human error, as previously concluded.

The Tupolev plane carrying President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others crashed as it was approaching the runway of the Smolensk military airport on 10 April 2010.

Berczyński said the commission had “very carefully” analysed the recordings of the conversation between the control tower and the pilots in the minutes before the crash.

He added that investigations at the site found debris “tens of metres” ahead of the site of the crash.

“The plane began to fall apart in the air and began to lose parts which fell to the ground before the birch tree [which] had no impact on the crash,” Berczyński said.

Theories in the weeks following the crash suggested that on its approach to the runway, the plane's wings clipped a birch tree, causing the crash.

Berczyński said that the current commission does not yet know the exact reason for the crash.

The commission to investigate the crash was set up by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party which came to power in 2015. It is expected to present its findings at a press conference on Monday at noon.

The party is headed by Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of Polish 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.

Despite several requests from Warsaw, Russia has refused to return the wreckage back to Poland.

Events around the country on Monday will mark the seventh anniversary of the crash. (rg/di)

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