Ten years after the Smolensk crash, two versions compete in Poland

Experts examine the wreckage of the Tupolev Tu-154 that crashed in Smolensk on April 13, 2010. Photo: Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Text by: Thomas Giraudeau Follow

On April 10, 2010, a presidential plane crashed in Smolensk, in western Russia. On board, the Polish head of state, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, but also ministers, leaders of army corps, deputies, senators and members of the clergy. The 96 passengers and crew members die in the disaster. This national drama has since deeply divided Poland. A division fed in particular by two commissions of inquiry. One concluded in an accident, the other accredits the thesis of an attack.


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From our correspondent in Poland,

On April 8, 2020, the former Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz assured that the Smolensk air disaster was an attack. " Two explosions took place in the cockpit " above the Russian airport on April 10, 2010, killing the Polish president and all passengers on the plane, he said in a television interview. Trwam .

These are the conclusions of the commission of inquiry that Macierewicz has chaired since 2016. The man was commissioned by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, current leader of the ruling party, Law and Justice, and twin brother of the president who died in the disaster, to make the light on what happened, this April 10, 2010.

A full report " in the coming days "

Bringing together international experts around them, they analyzed how the plane broke down over Smolensk airport. They also had the bodies of the 96 victims exhumed, with or without the families' agreement . Objective: determine if the passengers died on impact or a few seconds before, by the explosion of a possible bomb?

Antoni Macierewicz and his experts favor the second hypothesis. They suggest that explosives may have been placed by Russian authorities in 2009, a year before the disaster, while the Russian-made presidential Tupolev was undergoing repairs in Russia.

The former defense minister ensures that their report will be published " in the coming days ", even though Jaroslaw Kaczynski incited him, live on radio RMF FM , not to " disturb Polish society (in the midst of coronavirus epidemic) if the facts put forward are not sufficiently verified. Evidence is needed. "

The plane would have hit a tree

This version of the facts is in total contradiction with the only official one. In July 2011, a parliamentary commission chaired by the liberal party Civic Platform, then in power, concluded in an accident.

According to these conclusions, a thick fog complicated the task of the pilots. The latter breached security procedures and began the descent to land at Smolensk Airport. The aircraft was flying at too low an altitude, with no visibility on the ground. The left wing of the aircraft was torn off by hitting a birch. The aircraft ended up on its back and crashed, leaving no survivors.

Human errors and poor weather conditions therefore led to the crash, as well as failures in the lighting of the airport and bad information given by the Russian air traffic controllers.

A majority of the population believes in these conclusions according to the most recent polls, conducted in 2018 on the 8th anniversary of the disaster. But between 20 and 25% of Poles surveyed think the truth is elsewhere. They accredit the thesis of the attack put forward by the Macierewicz commission.

Among them, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Twin brother of late president, and current PiS head of law and justice, believes that Russia played a bigger role in the disaster, and that ex-Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his party, the Plate - civic form, in power during the accident and until October 2015, were negligent.

Did a bomb explode in the cockpit?

" The Russian side was over-trusted during the investigation, " said journalist Michal Szuldrzynski in the moderate daily Rzeczpospolita . The autopsies of the victims were carried out in Russia, not when the bodies were returned to Poland.

Above all, Moscow still refuses to return to Warsaw the wreckage of the plane as well as the black boxes. The Council of Europe also asked Russia to return them in October 2018, because its reluctance " feeds in Poland the idea that Russia has something to hide. »Without success for the moment.

All of which feed into the version of events defended by Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Antoni Macierewicz. The elements put forward by the former defense minister on April 8 will certainly further divide Poland. Between the supporters of the thesis of the accident and those who believe in an attack.

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