The President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, accompanied by his wife Maria and many officials of the Polish government, were killed in a plane crash while attempting to land in Smolensk, Russia today. The plane brushed tree tops in bad foggy weather, before crashing and bursting into flames.
There were no survivors among the 97 persons on board. The presidential plane departed from Warsaw and came down at 11:00 am (7:00 am GMT) about a mile (1.5km) from the airport and 225 km from Moscow. The Polish delegation was traveling to Smolensk for a Katyn commemoration ceremony.
The pilot was told Smolensk's Severny airport was closed because of thick fog, according to the news agency Interfax. He was told by air traffic controllers to divert to another landing site and given a choice of landing instead in either Moscow or Minsk, the capital of Belarus. But the pilot decided to continue with the original flight plan and land at Smolensk.
He made three unsuccessful attempts to land before the crash. On the fourth try, the plane fell apart in the tree tops, Interfax said, citing officials at Smolensk's interior ministry. It seems rather incredible that the pilot chose to make so many unsuccessful attempts.
Russia's foreign ministry confirmed the cause of the air catastrophe was bad weather. "According to provisional information the crash happened because the plane failed to land at the military airport near Smolensk in conditions of severe fog.”
Kaczyński was born in Warsaw on June 18, 1949. He began his political career when he studied law at the University of Warsaw in the late 1960s. He was the son of an engineer who served as a soldier of the Armia Krajowa in World War II and a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising and his mother a philologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The twins: After being elected president in December 2005, Kaczynski named his twin brother, Jaroslaw, to the post of prime minister.
The Polish government will convene an emergency session in the aftermath of the tragedy. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent his condolences to acting President, Parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski. In line with the president's death, Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski has become the acting president in Poland.
"I, like all Russian citizens, have accepted with deep and sincere shock the news of the tragic death of the Republic of Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and the members of the large Polish delegation near the city of Smolensk, who were on their way for commemorations in Katyn." Vladimir Putin called Prime Minister Donald Tusk and expressed his condolences to him personally and the entire Polish nation.
Vladimir Putin will head a special commission to investigate the death of the Polish president and the circumstances surrounding the plane crash.