Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich has resigned after a government report found serious errors by the crew of the plane that crashed in Russia last year, killing President Lech Kaczynski and nearly 100 other prominent Poles.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk made the announcement in Warsaw on July 29, saying he accepted Klich’s resignation.
The resignation came as a Polish government commission said Russia was partly to blame for the crash.
The commission’s report said that pilot error was the main reason for the tragedy, but that faulty equipment and poor communication by Russian ground staff at Smolensk airport in western Russia were also partly responsible.
Interior Minister Jerzy Miller unveiled the report at a press conference in Warsaw, saying the disaster had multiple causes.
“Operating a flight in such atmospheric conditions requires the flawless cooperation of two partners, of the crew, of the state of the weather and the air traffic controllers at the airport — in this case, Smolensk North,” he said.
The government of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk ordered the report six months ago after criticizing the official Russian investigation into the crash as “incomplete” for failing to investigate the role of air-traffic controllers. Moscow’s report placed the entire blame on the shoulders of the Polish pilots.
Pilots ‘Were Not Kamikazes’
Miller told journalists that the pilots had intended to attempt a second landing when the crash occurred, contradicting the Russian report, which found that the pilots had insisted on trying to land despite requests from ground control that they abort:
“The crew took the decision to attempt a second landing,” he said. “I underscore this, as some analyses have stated that the crew was determined to land, irrespective of the weather conditions. No, they were not kamikazes.”
Miller emphasized that the pilots had been poorly trained for landing the Tupolev-154 in such difficult weather conditions.
“In order to carry out its duties, the unit broke rules applying to pilots’ rest time,” said Maciej Lasek, a member of the commission that issued the report. “The flight training was hurried and did not allow for training in all types of weather conditions. This was because experienced pilots had left the unit and were replaced by inexperienced pilots, freshly out of the aviation academy.”
The report also says almost one-third of the lights at the Smolensk airport were defective or positioned improperly and that the air-traffic controller repeatedly told the crew that the plane was on the correct path.
The plane crashed outside Smolensk, Russia, on April 10, 2010, as Kaczynski and a high-level Polish delegation attempted to land in heavy fog to attend a commemoration ceremony to honor victims of a 1940 massacre of Polish military officers in Katyn Forest.
Report Could Be Used For Political Advantage
Kaczynski’s wife, the head of the Polish Central Bank, and several senior Polish military commanders were among those who died in the disaster.
Although Warsaw’s relations with Moscow improved noticeably after the disaster and Moscow was widely praised for its handling of the incident, the issue became a bone of contention following the Russian report on the crash.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former Polish prime minister and twin brother of the late president, Lech Kaczynski.
Poland will hold legislative elections this year, and the conservative opposition is attempting to use the report to its advantage.
At a press conference earlier this week, Antoni Macierewicz of the Law and Justice party, denounced the Polish report as merely “confirming Russian propaganda.”
The Law and Justice party is headed by Kaczynski’s twin brother, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Polish television reported that investigators collected 248 volumes of evidence in the case and spoke to 900 witnesses.
compiled from agency reports