Polish report on plane crash may smooth ties with Russia

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the final report released on Friday on the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski last year may become a basis for good relations between Russia and Poland.

Poland released its final report on the plane crash suggesting that both the Polish flight crew and Russian air traffic controllers were at fault.

“I confidently said that good relations can only rely on the truth,” Tusk said. “Our relationship may be even better. We are ready to build good relations, but not for the price of truth. The Polish report does not attempt to throw the blame on someone and does not shy away from the Polish responsibility. It can be the basis for good relations with Russia in this context.”

On April 10, 2010, the Polish president’s Tu-154 plane crashed in heavy fog as it attempted to land at an airfield near the western Russian city of Smolensk. The presidential delegation was flying to Smolensk to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police. Then Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and a host of other top officials on board were killed.

The authors of the report were quick to stress however that they had not sought to “attribute blame” for the crash, but rather to establish the reasons for the disaster, in which 96 people died. The probe into the crash has been a source of tensions between Russia and Poland.

The Russia-based Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) said a significant part of the findings of the Polish report match MAK’s, but some parts are still unclear. The committee said it will later comment on the report.

It added that the crew “was under some pressure due to the high profile nature of the flight.”

The Polish report said erroneous commands given by a Russian traffic controller and the inadequate training of Polish crew were also likely to have been among the causes of the crash. It highlighted the fact that the pilot was too late in aborting his first attempt to land.

The Polish commission also stated that the Russian controller responsible for the air traffic zone had little experience.

The report also cites other reasons such as that the aircraft’s Terrain Warning Approach System (TAWS) was not ready for the flight and that the Russian air traffic controller at Smolensk gave the crew incorrect information about the aircraft’s position on the approach.

MAK, along with leading flight safety experts, laid the blame for the crash on the Polish crew. Polish politicians denounced the report, saying it was one-sided or a cover-up.

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