Russia, Poland Plan Memorial to Smolensk Air Crash Victims

MOSCOW, December 17 (RIA Novosti) – The foreign ministers of Russia and Poland made further progress in their talks over the investigation into the Polish presidential plane crash at Smolensk in April 2010, and the construction of a memorial to the crash, at a broad ranging meeting on bilateral relations on Monday.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Poland remained one of Russia’s key partners in Central and Eastern Europe. But relations between the two countries have been tense since the April 10, 2010 crash, in which 96 people were killed, including then Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other senior state officials.


Poland has repeatedly called on Russia to return the debris from the crash, which it says it needs for its own investigation into the crash.


“We hope that the debris, which is our property, will be returned to Poland soon. So far, it is not in Poland and, as our Prime Minister [Donald Tusk] and President [Bronislaw] Komorowski have said, this [issue] could overshadow our relations, put additional pressure on our ties,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.


Russia’s Sergei Lavrov stressed the “close collaboration” between the relevant agencies in each country, and reiterated Russia’s position, that under law, the debris can only be returned to Poland once the Russian investigation into the tragedy has concluded.


“It is in our mutual interests that the investigation is concluded as rapidly as possible, and that we hand over the debris from the plane to the Polish side. We will act to ensure this takes place in the near future,” Lavrov said.


The two sides also discussed building a memorial at the scene of the crash. Lavrov noted that Russia had given Poland the topographic and geological information about the crash site and its surroundings needed for a monument to be designed.


“We hope our cooperation will intensify, and allow us to do everything possible to build a memorial to mark the site of this terrible tragedy, that could become a symbol of solidarity between our two nations. This is our common goal,” Lavrov said.


Poland’s Tu-154 plane crashed near the western Russian city of Smolensk during a landing approach in thick fog. An investigation into the crash, carried out by the Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), put the blame entirely on the Polish crew. Poland, which carried out a separate investigation, partially blamed Russian air controllers for the tragedy.


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