A row has broken out between Russia and Poland on the one-year anniversary of the plane crash in Russia that killed Poland’s president and 95 others.
Warsaw is angered that Moscow replaced a plaque at the site of the crash in Smolensk where the plane carrying Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and military leaders went down in heavy fog on April 10, 2010.
The Polish marker was only in Polish and mentions that the Polish delegation had traveled to Smolensk in western Russia to visit nearby Katyn where Soviet secret police had killed 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in 1940.
The Russian plaque is in both Russian and Polish but makes no mention of the Katyn massacre.
Quoted by the PAP news agency, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said the change of the plaque “was a surprise to us and we have asked the Russian side to explain.”
Reuters quotes Andrei Yevseyenko, a spokesman for Smolensk’s governor, as saying Poland had agreed to changing the original sign with a bilingual plaque.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to discuss the matter with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 11 when they visit the site.
In Warsaw, up to 1,000 people have protested outside the Russian Embassy over the incident. Many called Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a “murderer” and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk a “traitor.”
Analysts say many Poles resent Tusk’s efforts to build closer trade and energy ties with Moscow as part of an overall thawing of bilateral relations.
Many Poles were also angered over a Russian report into the crash, which put blame solely on the Polish pilots and none with Russian ground control.
On April 9, Poland’s first lady, Anna Komorowska, and relatives of some of the victims laid flowers near the site of the crash.
compiled from agency reports