Polish President killed in crash

April 10, 2010 12:00 am

, MOSCOW, Apr 10 – Polish President Lech Kaczynski and scores of other people were killed on Saturday when the president\’s plane crashed on landing in the western Russian city of Smolensk, officials said.

The Smolensk regional governor, Sergei Antufiev, said the plane clipped treetops as it approached to land at an airport outside Smolensk and crashed, breaking into several pieces.

Russian television broadcast live footage showing the plane\’s wreckage scattered in a forest with parts of it still on fire.

Russian news agencies reported there were at least 80 people aboard the plane — some reports said there were as many as 132 people on board — and Antufiev said no one had survived.

"It clipped the tops of the trees, crashed down and broke into pieces," the governor of the Smolensk region, Sergei Antufiev, told Russia-24 television news network by telephone from Smolensk.

"There were no survivors."

Officials in Warsaw confirmed that Kaczynski was aboard the plane that crashed and Russian television broadcast video shot earlier Saturday of the president and his wife boarding the plane in Warsaw.

Polish foreign ministry spokesman Piotr Pszkowski said that the army chief of staff and Deputy Foreign Minsiter Andrzej Kremer were also on board the plane.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev immediately appointed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the head of a commission to investigate the crash and sent Russia\’s emergency situations minister, Sergei Shoigu, to the site.

The aircraft crashed a few hundred metres short of the runway at the Severny airport outside Smolensk, ITAR-TASS news agency reported, quoting rescuers at the site.

The flight data recorders of the plane had not yet been located but experts were on the scene and the search for them was under way, ITAR-TASS said.

Kaczynski, the identical twin brother of former prime minister Jaroslaw, was on his way to attend commemorative ceremonies at the forest of Katyn in western Russia where 22,000 Poles were killed by Soviet troops 70 years ago.

The crash of his plane occurred three days after Putin and his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, together attended a memorial for the victims of the massacre at Katyn.

The Putin-Tusk meeting there was seen as a huge symbolic advance in Russia\’s often thorny relations with Poland.


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