|Poland in shock as president dies in crash|
The Polish president Lech Kaczynski died after his plane crashed as it approached a Russian airport, killing 130 people.
Published: 10:22AM BST 10 Apr 2010
President Lech Kaczynski was travelling with his wife from Warsaw to Smolensk airport, 220 miles southwest of Moscow, when his plane crashed in thick fog.
Poland was left stunned by the news that their president, his wife, and a whole tier of the Polish elite had been killed.
A television newsreader fought back tears as she relayed the news that the head of the Polish army and the head of the presidential administration were also on board the plane, along with the president's wife and families of other senior officials.
The plane was also carrying the governor of Poland's central bank, Slawomir Skrzypek.
Sergei Antufiev, the regional governor of the Smolensk, said that everyone on board had been killed.
"It clipped the tops of the trees, crashed down and broke into pieces," Mr Antufiev, told Russia-24 television news network by telephone. "There were no survivors." Polish state news agency PAP also said there were no survivors.
William Hague, shadow foreign minister, wrote on Twitter: "Very sad this morning about the death of Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash – a brave man who was interned by the Communists for his beliefs."
Mr Kaczynski, 60, had been president since December 2005. He was married with one daughter.
Mr Kaczynski had been flying to Katyn, near Smolensk, to commemorate Russian and Polish victims of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Thousands of Polish prisoners of war and intellectuals were murdered at Katyn by Soviet forces in spring 1940 in an enduring symbol for Poles of their suffering under Soviet rule.
Families of those killed at Katyn were also on board the plane, the Polish government official at the airport said.
In the case of a president's death, the speaker of the lower chamber of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, takes over as head of state, Mr Komorowski's assistant Jerzy Smolinski told Reuters.
Conditions around the airport were described as foggy when the Tupolev Tu-154 came down a mile from the airport.
Bronisław Komorowski [brɔˈɲiswaf kɔmɔˈrɔfskʲi] ( listen), of the Korczak coat of arms, (born June 4, 1952 in Oborniki Śląskie), is a Polish politician and the Civic Platform government's presidential candidate. On 10 April 2010, president Lech Kaczyński was killed in an aeroplane crash in Russia. As Marshal of the Sejm, the powers of the presidency devolve upon Komorowski as Acting President of Poland.
Komorowski is the former Polish Minister of National Defence. In 2005 to 2007 he was a vice-marshal of the Sejm - the lower chamber of the Polish parliament. On November 5, 2007 he was elected to and took the office of the Sejm Marshal.
He is a vice-chairman of Civic Platform and has been endorsed for the Polish presidency by Lech Wałęsa.[dead link]
Bronisław Komorowski was born in Oborniki Śląskie. Komorowski is son of Count Zygmunt Leon Komorowski (1924–1993) and Jadwiga Komorowska (née Szalkowska) (1921-). His family comes from the territory of Aukštaitija, northern Lithuania, and the Komorowski family for 200 years ruled Żywiecczyzna in Poland. He is distantly related to Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Duchess of Brabant, via her mother Anna Countess d'Udekem d'Acoz born Countess Komorowska. From 1957 to 1959 he lived in Józefów near Otwock. From 1959 to 1966 he also attended elementary school in Pruszków. In 1966 he transferred to Warsaw and graduated from Cyprian Kamil Norwid High School no. 24.
For many years he was connected with the Scout Movement. He belonged to the 75th Mazovian Scout Team in Pruszków. During his studies he was a Scout instructor in 208 WDHiZ "Umbrella" Battalion in Mokotów. He met his future wife through Scouting.
In 1977 he finished his studies in the History Department of the University of Warsaw. From 1977 to 1980 was an editor at "General Word".
 Dissident activity
During the Polish People's Republic (PRL) he acted in democratic opposition as an underground publisher, and co-operated with Antoni Macierewicz on the monthly Głos. In 1980 he was sentenced along with activists of the Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights to 1 month in prison for organizing a demonstration on 11 November 1979 (the judge who presided the trial was Andrzej Kryże). From 1980 to 1981 he worked in the Centre of Social Investigation of NSZZ "Solidarity". On 27 September 1981 he was one of the signatories of the founding declaration of the Clubs in the Service of Independence. He was interred while Poland was under martial law. From 1981 to 1989 he taught at the Lower Seminary in Niepokalanów.
 Third Republic
From 1989 to 1990 he acted as manager of the office of minister Alexander Hall, and from 1990 to 1993, the civil vice minister of national defence in the governments of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki and Hanna Suchocka. In the early 90s he was involved with the Democratic Union and Freedom Union Unia Wolności. From 1993 to 95 he was general secretary of these parties.
As the candidate of the Democratic Union he was elected to parliament in 1991 and 1993. In 1997, during the 2nd Sejm, together with a group of Warsaw University activists under the management of Jan Rokita he created Koło Konserwatywno-Ludowe. In the same year Koło Konserwatywno-Ludowe joined the newly created Stronnictwo Konserwatywno Ludowe, which joined Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność (AWS). In 1997 Komorowski was elected as a candidate of AWS. From 1997 to 2000 he presided over the Parliamentary National Defence Committee, and from 2000 to 2001 served as the minister of national defence in the government of Jerzy Buzek. In 2001, while still a minister in the minority AWS government, Komorowski, along with with some activists from SKL, became a member of Civic Platform. He stood for election to the 4th Sejm as a candidate of PO. Again he was elected, this time for the Warsaw constituency. After the inauguration of the new parliament he resigned from SKL. Since 2001 he has been a member of the National Civic Platform Board. In the 4th Sejm he was the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary National Defence Committee and a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.
He won election to the 5th Sejm in a district outside Warsaw. On 26 October 2005 he was elected Vice Speaker of the Sejm. 398 MPs voted in favour of his candidacy. His party had earlier recommended him as a candidate for Speaker. His candidacy, in defiance of precedent, was rejected by Law and Justice (PiS) which voted for Marek Jurek. This created an unfavourable climate further discussions regarding a PO-PiS coalition.
After the resignation of Marek Jurek as Speaker of the Sejm on 25 April 2007 Civic Platform announced Komorowski's candidacy for Speaker. On 27 April 2007 the Sejm rejected his nomination, and Ludwik Dorn from PiS became a new marshal. 189 MPs voted for Komorowski. Komorowski became Vice Speaker.
Komorowski took first place on the PO list for the Warsaw constituency in the 2007 parliamentary election and received 139,320 votes.
On March 27, 2010 he was chosen by PO members to be their candidate in presidential elections to be held in autumn 2010.
 Marshal of Lower House
On 5 November 2007 in the first session of the 4th Sejm of the Polish Republic Bronisław Komorowski was elected Speaker by 292 votes. He stood against Krzysztof Putra from PiS who received 160 votes. Stefan Niesiołowski, Krzysztof Putra, Jarosław Kalinowski, Jerzy Szmajdziński were elected Vice Speakers.
 Acting President of the Republic of Poland
He assumed the title of Acting President on April 10th, 2010 following the death of President Lech Kaczyński. His first decision as Acting President of Poland was to order six days of official national mourning beginning on April 10th. According to the Constitution of Poland, Komorowski is required to call a presidential election within 14 days of assuming the position. The election must be held within 60 days of that announcement.
Since 1977 he has been married to Anna Dembowska. He has five children: Zofia Aleksandra, Tadeusz Jan, Maria Anna, Piotr Zygmunt and Elżbieta Jadwiga.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Platforma Obywatelska)
The Civic Platform (Polish: Platforma Obywatelska, PO) is a political party in Poland, that describes its stance as a synthesis of conservatism and Christian democracy. It has formed Poland's government since the 2007 general election, and is the largest party in the Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament. Civic Platform is a member of the European People's Party (EPP).
Civic Platform was founded in 2001 as a split-off from existing parties. Founders: Andrzej Olechowski, Maciej Płażyński and Donald Tusk were sometimes jokingly called "the Three Tenors" by Polish media and commentators. Olechowski and Płażyński left the party during the 2001-2005 parliamentary term, leaving Donald Tusk as the sole remaining founder, and current party leader.
In the 2001 general election the party scored 12.6% and won 58 deputies in the Sejm, making it the largest party in opposition to the government led by the Democratic Left Alliance.
 PO-PiS failure
In 2005, the PO led all opinion polls with 26% to 30% support, however in the 2005 general election, in which it was led by Jan Rokita, the PO scored 24.1% and came second only to Law and Justice (PiS), which took 27,0%. A coalition of PO and PiS (nicknamed:PO-PiS) was expected to be the most likely government to form after the election. The putative coalition parties had a falling out, however, related to the fierce contest for the Polish presidency.
In the end, Lech Kaczyński (PiS) won the second round of the presidential election on 23 October 2005 with 54.0% of the vote, ahead of Donald Tusk, the PO candidate. Due to the demands of PiS for all armed ministries (the MOD, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the office of the Prime Minister, PO and PiS were unable to form a coalition. PiS wanted to create a government it could dominate; therefore, PiS had to form a coalition with the support of the conservative Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families and the agrarian-populist Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland parties which were later called the addons (in Polish przystawki) by the Polish media. Only with these parties could PiS create a government it would dominate. The PO became the opposition to this PiS-led coalition government.
 Run for power
This coalition fell apart in 2007 amid corruption scandals and internal leadership disputes. These events led to the new elections. In the 21 October 2007 National Assembly election, the party won 41.51 % of the popular vote and 209 out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 60 out of 100 seats in the Senate of Poland. Civic Platform defeated the PiS in these elections and subsequently formed a government along with the People's Party.
Civic Platform is a Christian-democratic and conservative party, combining conservative to liberal conservative stances on the economy with conservative stances on social and ethical issues, including opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, soft drug decriminalisation and civil unions, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research and partially to wide availability of in vitro fertilisation.
Core proposals in the party program included in the past privatization of the remaining public sectors of Polish economy; direct elections of mayors and regional governors; first-past-the-post electoral system instead of proportional representation; labor law reform; independence over monetary policy by the National Bank of Poland; a 15% flat tax; the decentralization of the state. As of third year of Civic Platform's rule, privatisation is creeping with only several enterprises privatised yearly, instead of tax-cuts the opposite was proposed .
* Maciej Płażyński (2001–2003)
* Donald Tusk (2003–...)
 Current Board
* Donald Tusk - chairman, Prime Minister
* Waldy Dzikowski - vice chairman
* Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz - vice chairman, mayor of Warsaw, capital of Poland
* Bronisław Komorowski - vice chairman, Marshal of Sejm
* Jacek Saryusz-Wolski - vice chairman
* Tomasz Tomczykiewicz - vice chairman
* Grzegorz Schetyna - general secretary, floor leader in the Sejm
* Zbigniew Chlebowski
* Urszula Augustyn
* Bogdan Zdrojewski - Minister of Culture and National Heritage
* Andrzej Czerwiński
* Cezary Grabarczyk - Minister of Infrastructure
* Sławomir Nitras
* Sławomir Nowak - chief of prime minister's Politic Cabinet
* Andrzej Czuma
|APRIL 10, 2010, 8:46 A.M. ET|
Skrzypek Death to Test Polish Central Bank
By MALGORZATA HALABA and MARYNIA KRUK
WARSAW -- Following the sudden death of Polish central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek in a plane crash Saturday, his first deputy, Piotr Wiesiolek, will become interim chief, according to Poland's central-bank law.
Analysts said that the governor's death is unlikely to change the path of monetary policy but that the appointment of Mr. Skrzypek's permanent successor will be a test of whether Poland's ruling Civic Platform party will be tempted to impinge on the central bank's independence.
Mr. Skrzypek died along with President Lech Kaczynski and many other top Polish officials in a plane crash in western Russia.
"Since this [transfer of power] mechanism has never been tested, it's unclear who will name a new permanent central bank chief," said Mateusz Szczurek, chief economist at ING Bank Slaski in Warsaw.
Under the central bank's law, the central bank's governor is appointed by the Parliament, but it's the president who nominates the candidate. "Now there is a question who will nominate the candidate in the president's absence," said Marcin Mrowiec, chief economist at Bank Pekao SA in Warsaw.
If the appointment takes place before a new president is elected in an election now likely to take place around midyear, Bronislaw Komorowski, who as parliamentary speaker becomes acting president, will make the choice.
Mr. Komorowski is also Civic Platform's official candidate for the presidency.
In recent weeks, the management board of the central bank, led by Mr. Skrzypek, had come into open conflict with six members of the council after a council majority voted to change the rules dictating how the bank's net profit was calculated.
Since most of the council has been appointed by the ruling Civic Platform, analysts had become concerned whether the conflict -- and its outcome -- threatened the central bank's independence.
Thus, the name of Mr. Skrzypek's successor becomes crucial, Mr. Mrowiec said.
"Right now Poland enjoys a very positive image among investors," he said. "But if the markets start to doubt the central bank's independence, it could raise the cost of Polish debt and weaken the zloty."
But, paradoxically, Mr. Skrzypek's death may mobilize both sides of the conflict to reach a compromise, Mr. Mrowiec said.
Write to Malgorzata Halaba at firstname.lastname@example.org and Marynia Kruk at email@example.com
|Polish leader, 95 others dead in Russia jet crash|
By JIM HEINTZ (AP) – 14 minutes ago
MOSCOW — Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96, officials said.
Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in Katyn forest of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.
The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland's political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.
Although initial signs pointed to an accident with no indication of foul play, the death of a Polish president and much of the Polish state and defense establishment in Russia en route to commemorating one of the saddest events in Poland's long, complicated history with Russia, was laden with tragic irony.
Reflecting the grave sensibilities of the crash to relations between the two countries, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally assumed charge of the investigation. He was due in Smolensk later Saturday, where he would meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was flying in from Warsaw.
"This is unbelievable — this tragic, cursed Katyn," Kaczynski's predecessor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, said on TVN24 television.
It is "a cursed place, horrible symbolism," he said. "It's hard to believe. You get chills down your spine."
Andrei Yevseyenkov, spokesman for the Smolensk regional government, said Russian dispatchers asked the crew to divert from the military airport in North Smolensk and land instead in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus, or in Moscow because of the fog.
While traffic controllers generally have the final word in whether it is safe for a plane to land, they can and do leave it to the pilots' discretion.
"The crew made an independent decision to land in Smolensk," Yevseyenkov said in televised remarks.
Russia's Emergency Ministry said there were 96 dead, 88 of whom were part of the Polish state delegation. Poland's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Piotr Paszkowski, said there were 89 people on the passenger list but one person had not shown up for the roughly 1 1/2-hour flight from Warsaw's main airport.
Some of the people on board were relatives of those slain in the Katyn massacre. Also among the victims was Anna Walentynowicz, whose firing in August 1980 from the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk sparked a workers' strike that spurred the eventual creation of the Solidarity freedom movement. She went on to be a prominent member.
"This is a great tragedy, a great shock to us all," former president and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said.
The deaths were not expected to directly affect the functioning of Polish government: Poland's president is commander in chief of its armed forces but the position's domestic duties are chiefly symbolic. Most top government ministers were not aboard the plane.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 66 crashes involving Tu-154s, including six in the past five years. The Russian carrier Aeroflot recently withdrew its Tu-154 fleet from service.
Poland has long discussed replacing the planes that carry the country's leaders but said they lacked the funds.
The presidential plane was fully overhauled in December, the general director of the Aviakor aviation maintenance plant in Samara, Russia told Rossiya-24. The plant repaired the plane's three engines, retrofitted electronic and navigation equipment and updated the interior, Alexei Gusev said. He said there could be no doubts that the plane was flightworthy
The plane tilted to the left before crashing, eyewitness Slawomir Sliwinski told state news channel Rossiya-24. He said there were two loud explosions when the aircraft hit the ground.
Rossiya-24 showed footage from the crash site, with pieces of the plane scattered widely amid leafless trees and small fires burning in woods shrouded with fog. A tail fin with the red and white national colors of Poland stuck up from the debris.
Polish-Russian relations had been improving of late after being poisoned for decades over the Katyn massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers.
Russia never has formally apologized for the murders but Putin's decision to attend a memorial ceremony earlier this week in the forest near Katyn was seen as a gesture of goodwill toward reconciliation. Kaczynski wasn't invited to that event. Putin, as prime minister, had invited his Polish counterpart, Tusk.
Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev both called Tusk to express their condolences and they promised to work closely with Poland in investigating the crash. Tusk said they had been the first to offer condolences.
"On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people," Medvedev said, according to the Kremlin press service.
Putin told Tusk that he would keep him fully briefed on the investigation, his spokesman said.
Rossiya-24 showed hundreds of people around the Katyn monument, many holding Polish flags, some weeping.
Poland's parliament speaker, the acting president, declared a week of national mourning. Tusk called for two minutes of silence at noon (1000GMT) Sunday.
"The contemporary world has not seen such a tragedy," he said.
In Warsaw, Tusk also called an extraordinary meeting of his Cabinet and the national flag was lowered to half-staff at the presidential palace, where several thousand people gathered to lay flowers and light candles. Black ribbons appeared in some windows in the capital.
Kaczynski, 60, was the twin brother of Poland's opposition leader, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski's wife, Maria, was an economist. They had a daughter, Marta, and two granddaughters.
Lech Kaczynski became president in December 2005 after defeating Tusk in that year's presidential vote.
The nationalist conservative had said he would seek a second term in presidential elections this fall. He was expected to face an uphill struggle against Parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Tusk's governing Civic Platform party.
The constitution says the parliament speaker announce early elections within 14 days of the president's death. The vote must be held within another 60 days.
Poland, a nation of 38 million people, is by far the largest of the 10 formerly communist countries that have joined the European Union in recent years.
Last year, Poland was the only EU nation to avoid recession and posted economic growth of 1.7 percent.
It has become a firm U.S. ally in the region since the fall of communism — a stance that crosses party lines.
The country sent troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and recently boosted its contingent in Afghanistan to some 2,600 soldiers.
U.S. Patriot missiles are expected to be deployed in Poland this year. That was a Polish condition for a 2008 deal — backed by both Kaczynski and Tusk — to host long-range missile defense interceptors.
The deal, which was struck by the Bush administration, angered Russia and was later reconfigured under President Barack Obama's administration.
Under the Obama plan, Poland would host a different type of missile defense interceptors as part of a more mobile system and at a later date, probably not until 2018.
Kaczynski is the first serving Polish leader to die since exiled World War II-era leader Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski in a plane crash off Gibraltar in 1943.
In the village of Gorzno, in northern Poland, the streets were largely empty as people stayed home to watch television.
"It is very symbolic that they were flying to pay homage to so many murdered Poles," said resident Waleria Gess, 73.
"I worry because so many clever and decent people were killed," said high school student Pawel Kwas, 17. "I am afraid we may have problems in the future to find equally talented politicians."
Associated Press writers Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Deborah Seward in Paris, John Daniszewski in Centerville, Ohio, and Naomi Koppel in London contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
|Tragedy in Smolensk|
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski dies in a plane crash
Apr 10th 2010 | From The Economist online
POLAND’S awful history makes it no stranger to tragedy, grief and shock. But not for decades has it suffered a trauma such as the death of President Lech Kaczynski, along with dozens of other senior Polish politicians and officials, in an air crash on April 10th.
The presidential plane was carrying a delegation to Katyn, to commemorate the mass murder of a previous Polish elite: the 20,000 reservist officers murdered by Stalin’s NKVD in 1940.
The symbolism of the tragedy to many Poles is almost unbearable. In 1943 General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the leader of the Polish wartime government, died in a plane crash in Gibraltar. No foul play was proved there, but many Poles believe that he was murdered because of his resolute determination to expose the Katyn massacre—which the Soviet Union blamed on the Germans. Now another Polish president, closely involved in the same issue, has died in an all too similar manner.
Polish historical sensitivies about Russia mean that many see the coincidence as sinister rather than tragic. But the plane tried to land four times, in bad weather. Accident is the overwhelmingly likely cause.
Yet like Katyn, which eliminated the flower of the pre-war Polish elite, the plane crash also seems like a decapitation of Polish society. Among the 96 people who died were the chief of the Polish general staff, the head of the central bank, the director of the Institute of National Remembrance (which investigates and documents crimes such as Katyn) and many other of the country’s top public figures. Many politicians from the opposition Law and Justice Party, which is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother, were among the delegation.
A growing pile of flowers outside the presidential palace in Warsaw attested to the public’s stunning sense of loss. Radek Sikorski, the foreign minister, who broke the news to the prime minister Donald Tusk this morning and said that the head of government wept on hearing it. Both men had been at Katyn earlier in the week, at a ceremony attended by the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin. The hawkish Mr Kaczynski did not attend that ceremony, instead insisting on his own visit three days later.
The tragedy brings big upsets in Polish political life and in other institutions. The presidential elections, due to be held in October, will be brought forward. Mr Kaczynyski had been facing a tough challenge from Bronislaw Komorowski, a close ally of Mr Tusk’s. Mr Komorowski is also speaker of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament. In that capacity, he now becomes acting president.
Mr Kaczynski, like his brother, was known for personal integrity and his deep roots in Poland’s anti-communist opposition movement. He was a vehement critic of both German and Soviet historical crimes against Poland, and a strong supporter of countries such as Georgia. He was modest and charming in private, although visibly ill-at-ease on big public occasions and prone to gaffes and unnecessary controversies.
Mr Kaczynski’s wife, Maria, died in the crash. The couple had one daughter.
|Polish president Lech Kaczynski: a profile|
Polish president Lech Kaczynski is feared dead after his plane crashed while travelling to Russia.
By Matthew Day in Warsaw
Published: 10:53AM BST 10 Apr 2010
The Smolensk plane crash brings to an end the life of one of the dominant forces of Polish politics.
Lech Kaczynski, as either president or party politician, stamped his name on the Polish political scene to become one of the most influential and powerful men in the country, earning a reputation for being a sharp and shrewd political operator.
He was also a man happy to court controversy.
Exhibiting a prickly sense of nationalism that brought him into frequent conflict with Donald Tusk, the prime minister, the 60-year-old president also faced accusations of siding with his identical twin brother Jaroslaw, the leader of Poland's main opposition party, to foil the government's reform programme.
Along with his twin, President Kaczynski cut his political teeth by joining Lech Walesa's Solidarity trade union in the fight against communism. With the fall of the socialist state in 1989 he briefly served in the office of then president Lech Walesa, before Mr Walesa fired him.
His sacking sparked a long and bitter battle with the former Solidarity leader that tainted the rest of Lech Kaczynski's political career. He became convinced that the Nobel Prize winner had, by striking an agreement with Poland's last communist government, sold out the Solidarity revolution, and allowed elements of the socialist state's security apparatus to live on.
It was the belief that Poland needed to clean its house of the remnants of communism that led to Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski to form the Law and Justice Party in 2001. Along with trumpeting a socially conservative agenda, the party promised to crack down on corruption and purge Poland of the unwanted traces of the socialist state.
After serving as mayor of Warsaw for three years, in October 2005 Lech Kaczynski triumphed in presidential elections to become Poland's head of state. When Law and Justice won the Polish general election a month later, ushering Jaroslaw into the prime minister's office, Poland found itself in the unusual situation being run by identical twins.
In an attempt to downplay the fact that twins occupied the two most powerful posts in Polish politics, Lech and Jaroslaw, who many had trouble telling apart, were rarely seen together in public, and bridled when people referred to them as a single political entity rather than individuals.
After Law and Justice was defeated in general elections in 2007, President Kaczynski found himself in a bitter battle with Donald Tusk, the new prime minister. A series of very public clashes between the two men over who controlled Polish foreign policy prompted the prime minister to suggest changes to the Polish constitution to limit presidential power.
The government also complained of President Kaczynski's frequent use of the presidential veto, which stalled a series of key reform programmes.
President Kaczynski was due to fight for re-election this year in October.
|Russia, Poland eye reconciliation at WWII mass grave|
By Lidia Kelly, REUTERS
Last Updated: April 7, 2010 2:07pm
KATYN, Russia - The leaders of Russia and Poland paid tribute on Wednesday to Russian and Polish victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and vowed to overcome painful historic memories that still hamper their bilateral relations.
At a sombre ceremony in Katyn forest, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged Poles not to blame the Russian people for the murder of 22,000 Polish officers by Stalin’s NKVD secret police in 1940 and to look to the future, not just the past.
“We cannot change the past but we can establish and preserve the truth and that means historical justice. Polish and Russian historians are now working to uncover this truth and to allow an opening between our countries,” said Putin.
The mass murder of thousands of Polish prisoners of war and intellectuals at Katyn in spring 1940 — just months after Nazi Germany and Stalin carved up Poland — is an enduring symbol for Poles of their suffering under totalitarian Soviet rule.
For many decades Moscow blamed the Nazis for the deaths and only acknowledged its responsibility in 1990, a year after the fall of communism in Poland. The Kremlin has resisted Polish calls to brand the Katyn massacre a “genocide”.
The tranquil site, set among pine and birch trees in western Russia, also contains the graves of many Russians executed on Stalin’s orders, including during the Great Terror of the 1930s.
As expected, Putin, a former agent in the KGB, a successor organization to Stalin’s NKVD, did not apologize for the Katyn murders, and he stressed the common suffering of Russians, Poles and other ethnic groups under Stalin’s rule.
“With decades of cynical lies, they tried to blot out the truth about the Katyn shootings. It would be a similar kind of falsehood to ... place the blame for these crimes on the Russian people,” Putin said.
“However hard it may be, we must try to ... come to terms with a common historical truth and realize that we cannot go on living in the past alone.”
Wednesday’s commemoration crowns a steady improvement in relations between Russia and Poland, though differences remain over energy security, missile defence and NATO enlargement.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a pragmatist who wants to build closer economic ties with energy-rich Russia, told a joint news conference that Putin may visit Poland this year.
Putin said the two countries would sign “in the near future“ a recently agreed deal securing Russian gas deliveries to Poland until the year 2037.
On Katyn, Tusk urged reconciliation based on honesty about past crimes.
“Prime Minister Putin, the eye sockets of those killed here by a shot to the back of the head are looking at us today and waiting to see whether we are ready to turn this lie into reconciliation,” Tusk said at the memorial ceremony.
A commission of Russian and Polish historians is due to publish a book this year on the neighbours’ difficult shared history. It is expected to include a common position on Katyn.
Putin and Tusk, both wearing black ties, laid wreaths in both the Russian and Polish cemeteries and heard prayers offered by Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim clergy.
Among those attending the ceremony were ex-Polish president Lech Walesa, who as leader of the Solidarity trade union helped topple communism in 1989, and Andrzej Wajda, the Polish director whose film “Katyn””was recently aired on Russian television.
Polish officials, who have been irked by some recent attempts in Moscow to whitewash aspects of the Soviet past and to present Stalin as a heroic figure, welcomed Putin’s conciliatory tone on Wednesday.
“This is a step in the right direction, though not yet a breakthrough,” said Bronislaw Komorowski, who is the candidate of Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform in Poland’s presidential election due later this year.
“I hope Prime Minister Putin’s words about the Russian victims mark an era of coming to terms with Russia’s Stalinist past. That would help democratization in Russia and also help our bilateral relations,” Komorowksi told Polish television.
|'Mister Premier, they are here after all, they lay in this earth,' Tusk said of the victims at Katyn. 'Their orbits look out through their shot skulls and they're waiting, to see if we're capable of turning violence and lies into unity.' |
|(AFX UK Focus) 2010-03-31 18:43|
UPDATE 2-Polish c.bank head, council clash over 2009 profit
Article layout: raw
By Kuba Jaworowski and Gabriela Baczynska
WARSAW, March 31 (Reuters) - There were fresh signs of conflict between Poland's central bank governor and fellow policymakers on Wednesday which analysts said reflected a political divide on the 10-strong Monetary Policy Council.
In an unprecedented scene at the bank's news conference after its monthly decision on interest rates, council member Anna Zielinska-Glebocka was passed a note by governor Slawomir Skrzypek.
Zielinska-Glebocka read out the note as saying: "You are not telling the truth".
Skrzypek, at the centre of a row over how much profit the bank will contribute this year to state coffers, declined to elaborate on what the note said.
Most of the bank's new council were appointed by Poland's centre-right government earlier this year. Skrzypek by contrast was appointed in 2007 by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, a founder of main opposition party Law and Justice.
Skrzypek also has a dual role as governor chairing the council and running the bank's board and staff, and has run foul of the government in recent months in a row over how much profit the bank would record for 2009 and hence pass to the budget.
On Wednesday he said this profit would be 4.2 billion zlotys ($1.46 billion) -- less than half of some government estimates.
The MPC also passed a resolution on the issue of the profit during its two-day meeting which ended on Wednesday, but policymakers declined to give any details of what it said.
When asked to clarify, Zielinska-Glebocka said:
"The MPC defines the rules on creating reserves. It has passed a resolution and the board has a certain problem now, concerning what governor Skrzypek has said...the rest you have to find out when the embargo (on publishing the resolution) ends." She did not elaborate on when the resolution might be published.
By Polish law, 95 percent of the central bank's profit must be transferred to the state budget, although the central bank's management can set some cash aside, creating currency reserves in case it expects significant exchange rate changes.
Both sides refused to say whether Skrzypek's profit estimate was final, or whether the MPC's resolution had invalidated it and would force the board to recalculate the number.
Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk met with the MPC and his top economic aide, Michal Boni, told Reuters that both parties had decided to give each other three weeks to think about the situation before meeting again.
"We have discussed the rules of cooperation and how to avoid an institutional crisis between important state bodies. We have discussed those issues, also the particular ones, which create this tension and threat," Boni said.
The bank's 2009 profit, extending the International Monetary Fund's Flexible Credit Line (FCL) to Poland, and adoption of the euro currency are among issues where Tusk and Skrzypek differ.
Poland is scheduled to hold presidential elections this autumn and Kaczynski, who counts Skrzypek among his longtime political allies, is widely expected to seek another term. But public opinion surveys suggest he would lose to Tusk's Civic Platform candidate, parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski.
"The fact that the conflict inside the MPC is coming out in public in such a way is very bad -- this should stay behind locked doors," said Janusz Jankowiak, economist at business lobby group Polska Rada Biznesu.
Analysts said it appeared unlikely that any officials would end up resigning because of the conflict over the central bank's profit, but that it might eventually start to affect financial market sentiment if it dragged on.
"Some investors may think that the bank is focusing more on the conflict rather than on monetary policy," said Piotr Kalisz, chief economist at Citibank Handlowy in Warsaw.
"I don't think this will have a direct impact on the markets but the more information like this we get, if market sentiment worsens, this may weaken it further -- especially given there is some talk about dropping the FCL."
(Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig, writing by Karolina Slowikowska; Editing by Patrick Graham and Andrew Torchia) Keywords: POLAND CBANK/CONFLICT (firstname.lastname@example.org; +48 22 653 9725; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)
Mitteleuropa goes to the polls
Published on March 31 2010 | Lidové noviny
Future president may have little to do (Polish presidential election in September or October)
Next year, Prime Minister Donald Tusk may acceded to a level of power that no Polish politician has exercised since the end of communist rule in 1989. Does anyone know the name of the German president? No, given that he has a largely ceremonial role, not many people do. And this is precisely the type of presidency that Tusk, who leads the ruling Civic Platform, wants to see adopted in Poland. The incessant quarrels that have marked his relationship with Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who under the current constitution has the option of blocking policy measures, have convinced Tusk that he has to make a choice: either he has to run for president himself, or he will have to limit the powers granted to the head of state. He appears to have opted for the second of these solutions. And, according the polls, he will have sufficient support in parliament to change the constitution to attain this objective. It matters little whether Lech Kaczyński (who still has a chance) or the Civic Platform candidate Bronisław Komorowski wins the presidential election because both contenders have markedly similar opinions on a wide range of issues: Poland's role in the EU and in NATO (should be strengthened), the euro (should be adopted but not in a hurry), relations with Russia (next), lustration (former members of the communist regime should be investigated), "decommunisation" (let's do it!), the Catholic Church (should be protected), abortion (should probably be outlawed), gays (what gays?). Journalist and Czech language and culture specialist Aleksander Kaczorowski is the deputy editor of the Polish edition of Newsweek.
|The Irish Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2010|
Speaker wins Polish presidential primary
WARSAW – Poland’s parliament speaker, Bronislaw Komorowski, is on track to become president later this year after his landslide victory in a US-style primary election at the weekend, analysts said yesterday.
A majority of prime minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) party backed Mr Komorowski (58), for the presidential race in the autumn in an internal party contest – the first time a primary has been held in Poland.
If elected, Mr Komorowski, a PO insider, would co-operate smoothly with the government and probably not block government legislation – as the current conservative president, Lech Kaczynski, has done.
“Unless some completely unexpected developments rock the political scene, it looks like Komorowski has the presidency,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, head of Warsaw’s Institute of Public Affairs think tank.
Mr Kaczynski has not yet said he will seek another five-year term, but analysts expect him to make the announcement in May.
A telephone survey conducted by Millward Brown SMG/KRC on Sunday, after the announcement of the primary result, showed Mr Komorowski winning 38 per cent of votes in the first round of a presidential election, ahead of Mr Kaczynski with 21 per cent.
The survey showed that Mr Komorowski would get 60 per cent in the second round, against 27 per cent for Mr Kaczynski.
Under Polish law the speaker of the lower chamber announces the election date, and Mr Komorowski has until late June to do that. Analysts expect voting to take place in September or October. – (Reuters)
|Poland’s President, Bank Governor Die in Plane Crash (Update4)|
April 10, 2010, 10:54 AM EDT
(Adds comment from IMF’s Strauss-Kahn in 16th paragraph.)
By David McQuaid and Piotr Skolimowski
April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Polish President Lech Kaczynski and central bank Governor Slawomir Skrzypek were killed today along with several key members of the country’s political elite when their plane crashed in western Russia, where they were to mark the 70th anniversary of a massacre of Polish officers.
The 60 year-old president’s wife, Maria, and leaders of the country’s main opposition parties and military, including the Army Chief of Staff Franciszek Gagor, also died in the crash, which happened as the aircraft was on approach for landing in Smolensk, Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said in a phone interview. The crash killed all 96 on board, including 88 passengers and 8 crew, according to Russia’s Emergency Ministry.
Under Poland’s constitution the duties of the president, which are largely ceremonial, will be taken over by the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski. He has 14 days to announce a presidential election, which must be held within two months. Komorowski is the candidate of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party and polls show he was poised to defeat Kaczynski in presidential elections, originally scheduled for the second half of the year.
“This is the most tragic event in the history of Poland outside wartime,” Tusk said in a televised speech. “Such a dramatic event is unprecedented in the modern world.”
Executive power under Poland’s constitution is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister as head of government. The president has the power to veto legislation and make some appointments, including generals, judges, ambassadors and the governor of the central bank.
Piotr Wiesiolek, a deputy governor of the central bank, will temporarily assume the governorship.
Hundreds of Poles gathered in front of the presidential palace, lighting candles, laying flowers and praying. The roads leading to the palace were crowded with onlookers as the police blocked off the surrounding area. Churches around the country announced services to commemorate the dead.
“I thought it’s some stupid April Fool’s kind of a joke when I heard the news and I am in such a state of shock that I can’t stop crying,” said Maria Przyborska, a 54-year old teacher from Warsaw who laid roses at the palace gates. “I didn’t vote for Kaczynski, but this was my president and I can’t understand how this could happen.”
The delegation was to attend an anniversary ceremony commemorating the murder of thousands of Poles killed in the spring of 1940 by Soviet forces under Josef Stalin at the Katyn forest, close to the city of Smolensk.
World Leaders Respond
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on April 7 hosted a meeting with Tusk in an effort to heal the two countries’ difference over the massacre, making him the first Russian leader to pay his respects to the more than 4,000 Polish officers killed in the Katyn forest, a crime denied by the Kremlin for half a century.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he called Tusk to express his “deepest condolences to the people of Poland on the tragic deaths,” according to a statement. “Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world. President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also conveyed his sympathy and ordered “a thorough investigation in full and closest cooperation with the Polish side,” a statement on the Kremlin’s Web Site said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the deaths a “political and human tragedy for Poland, for our neighbor country,” in comments broadcast by N24 television out of Berlin. “I gladly remember that Lech Kaczynski invited me to the Polish national holiday on the 11th of November 2008, that was a very special gesture also for a neighbor country like Germany; we spent many, many hours talking about Polish and European history.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres said his country is “shocked by the report of the terrible tragedy that has struck Poland,” in a statement distributed by e-mail today. Israel “shares in the mourning of the Polish people and the free world.”
Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown said “the whole world will be saddened and shocked as a result of this tragic death,” according to a statement.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said he was “shocked” at the “terrible” news.
The government of the largest of the 10 former communist nations to join the European Union since 2004 is holding an emergency cabinet meeting. The country will hold a week of national mourning, Komorowski said in comments broadcast by TVP INFO.
“In the face of this tragedy we are all together; there are no divisions, no differences,” Komorowski said.
The plane clipped the tree line at about 10:50 a.m. Moscow time and broke in two as the pilot attempted a fourth landing amid heavy fog at a military airport near Smolensk, Russia, Rossiya-24 said, citing officials at the scene. Newswire RIA quoted an unnamed Russian security official as saying pilot error was a factor in the accident.
Rossiya-24 TV showed live footage of rescue workers attempting to extinguish pockets of fire among the wreckage almost two hours later at the airport, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Moscow.
“The plane was landing in bad visibility,” Andrei Yevseyenkov, press secretary of the Smolensk region governor told Rossiya-24. “Dispatchers at Severny military airport suggested that the plane land in Minsk (about 200 kilometers away) but the pilots took their own landing decision.”
Medvedev dispatched Emergency Ministry Sergei Shoigu to the site of the crash and formed a special commission headed by Putin to investigate the cause. Tusk said he will leave Warsaw “immediately” for the crash site, where he will talk with Russian officials conducting the investigation.
The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office is looking into whether bad weather, human error, a technical malfunction or other reasons caused the crash, according to a statement on the committee’s Web Site. A criminal case has been initiated, it said.
Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish president in exile during World War II, Janusz Kurtyka, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates Nazi and Soviet crimes against Poles, and the Army chief of staff Franciszek Gagor were to be on the plane, according to a list of passengers posted on the government’s website.
‘Twist of Fate’
The list also includes deputy parliamentary speaker Jerzy Smajdzinski, who was the presidential candidate of the opposition Left Democratic Alliance. That means the crash killed the presidential candidates of two of Poland’s three largest parties. Kaczynski had already won the endorsement of the opposition Law and Justice party. He was to officially declare his candidacy in May.
Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who led his country’s fight against Communism, called the crash a tragedy without comparison. “I would say that we weren’t that close politically but that is irrelevant,” Havel said today in an interview on Czech state-run television. “Even if it had been a different Polish president, to have all this occur together - Katyn and” the loss of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, “who died in a different plane crash, it’s an unbelievable twist of fate.”
The death of Polish Prime Minister Wladyslaw Sikorski at Gilbraltar in 1943 is the last time Poland lost a national leader in a plane crash.
--With assistance from Maciej Martewicz, Marta Waldoch, Monika Rozlal in Warsaw, Brad Cook, Anna Shiryaevskaya in Moscow, Douglas Lytle in Prague and Nicholas Comfort in Prague. Editors: Alan Crosby, Tasneem Brogger.
To contact the reporter on this story: David McQuaid in Warsaw at firstname.lastname@example.org Piotr Skolimowski in Warsaw at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this Chris Kirkham at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Death of central bank chief unlikely to affect policy|
By Jan Cienski in Warsaw
Published: April 10 2010 14:06 | Last updated: April 10 2010 14:06
The death of Slawomir Skrzypek, the president of Poland's central bank, in a plane crash on Saturday morning that also killed the country's president and many other senior officials, is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the functioning of the bank and on the country's monetary policy.
Hours after the crash, the bank announced that the institution's new acting president will be Piotr Wiesiolek, Skrzypek's deputy. He will also take over the management of the 10-member interest-rate setting Monetary Policy Council and cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie. Mr Wiesolek, 46, has worked in banking since 1992, and took his current post in 2008. His monetary policy views are not well known.
The council is relatively evenly divided between interest rate hawks and doves, but is unlikely to make any changes to interest rates (the benchmark rate is currently 3.5 per cent) as inflation is falling and the strengthening zloty is already exerting a tightening effect.
“Fortunately the central bank is not needed to undertake any crucial decisions right now, unlike the situation a year ago,” said Ryszard Petru, chief economist for BRE Bank, a subsidiary of Germany's Commerzbank.
The bank had decided to intervene in currency markets on Friday, acting to weaken the zloty, which has appreciated sharply in recent weeks on a continuing wave of good news from Poland, which was the only EU country to avoid recession last year. However, interventions of that type are very rare and can be done by the current management.
Skrzypek, 46, was a close political ally of Lech Kaczynski, Poland's president, and took over the bank in 2007. His nomination was controversial because he had little banking experience and shared Kaczynski's scepticism about Poland's rapid entry into the eurozone.
His parliamentary confirmation hearing went very badly, and Skrzypek took a low profile at the bank, being very careful about any public comments he made. Although he remained unpopular with key members of the government of Donald Tusk, the prime minister, Skrzypek did preside over the bank during the economic crisis, when it helped to stabilise the banking system by setting up swap lines for euros and Swiss francs.
In recent days Skrzypek had been at the heart of a growing dispute with the finance ministry, after he recommended that Poland not apply to extend a $20.5bn flexible credit line from the International Monetary Fund. There had also been a conflict over government demands to transfer as much of the central bank's profit as possible to the strapped state budget.
It is unclear whether Bronislaw Komorowski, the speaker of parliament and acting president, will immediately nominate a successor to Skrzypek or wait until the outcome of presidential elections.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.
|Russian Prosecutor's Office names 3 reasons for crash of Polish President's aircraft|
April 10, 2010 - 16:57 AMT 11:57 GMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office is looking into whether bad weather, human error, a technical malfunction or other reasons caused the crash of Polish President’s aircraft.
The TU-154 carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, heads of the General Staff and Central Bank, as well as dozens of politicians and officials crashed on April 10 morning. The plane hit treetops in heavy fog as it approached the airport. The plane crashed several hundred meters of the runway of Severny airport near Smolensk. The official Polish delegation headed by Kaczynski was traveling to participate in the events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.
According to clarified data, there were 96 people aboard. None of them has survived.
Under the Polish constitution, the presidential powers have been transferred to Sejm speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, Lenta.ru reported.
|Polish President, Others Killed in Plane Crash|
By GREGORY L. WHITE in Moscow and MARCIN SOBCZYK in Warsaw
Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of others in a high-level delegation were killed Saturday when their plane crashed on landing outside the western Russian city of Smolensk, officials said.
Russian state television reported that the Tu-154 jet crashed about a kilometer short of the runway on its fourth attempt to land in heavy fog at the Smolensk-Severnyi military airport, shortly before 11 a.m. Moscow time.
Russian officials say the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and his wife were among those killed in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. Video courtesy of Reuters.
Reports of the number killed in the crash varied. Polish officials put the figure at 88, while Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations said 96 had died and Russia's Investigative Committee said the total was 132.
"We still cannot fully understand the scope of this tragedy and what it means for us in the future," said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Piotr Paszkowski. "Nothing like this has ever happened in Poland."
"We can assume with great certainty that all persons on board have been killed."
—Malgorzata Halaba in Warsaw contributed to this article
Write to Gregory L. White at email@example.com
|Polish president plane crash: the plane|
Poland's president Lech Kaczynski was flying from Warsaw to Smolensk in Russia when his plane crashed.
Published: 10:23AM BST 10 Apr 2010
Mr Kaczynski and his colleagues were flying in a Tupolev Tu-154 when it crashed on approaching the airport.
The plane came down a mile away from Smolensk airport, 220 miles south of Moscow, in foggy conditions. The Tupolev Tu-154 is described as the 'workhorse' of the Soviet airlines for decades, and aviation experts say it has a reasonable safety record for the amount of aircraft in use.
“The 154 is by a wide margin the most successful jet ever built by a communist economic system,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president at Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultant.
“It was created at the height of the old Soviet Union’s ability to invent equipment that at least approximated the achievements of the West. The real problem is regulatory oversight in many of the regions where it’s used. Corruption and neglect almost guarantee trouble.”
The Tu-154 has a fatal accident every 431,200 flights, according to London-based aviation consultant Ascend. The Boeing 737, the world’s best-selling passenger plane, crashes every 2.68 million flights.
The planes can hold between 114 and 180 passengers, and are designed for heavy use in demanding conditions. Design criteria included the ability to operate from gravel or packed earth airfields, to be able to fly at high altitudes above most Soviet Union air traffic, and good field performance in Arctic conditions.
The plane was designed in the mid 1960s, and was Aeroflot's standard craft from the early 1970s until this year.
In January 2010 the Russian national carrier announced the retirement of its Tupolev Tu-154 fleet after 40 years of service, but the plane remains the standard airliner for routes across the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe and Iran.
In July last year, a Tu-154 crashed in Iran, killing 168 people. It was the eight fatal incident involving a Tu-154 in ten years.
|Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 14:32 UK|
Crash focusses attention on Tupolev-154
The death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash is likely to raise questions about the 20-year-old Tupolev-154 he was travelling in.
The BBC's Adam Easton reports from Warsaw that there had been calls for Polish leaders to upgrade their planes.
And in late 2008 Mr Kaczynski had suffered a couple of scares. Problems with the aircraft's steering mechanism delayed his departure from Mongolia, forcing him to take a charter flight to Tokyo, and a week later the plane was caught up in turbulence flying to Seoul.
However, the aircraft had recently undergone a major overhaul and Aleksey Gusev, the head of the maintenance plant that carried out the work, told Polish TV that it should not have had technical problems.
"From the moment it entered service, the plane had had 5,004 flight hours and 1,823 landings, which for aircraft of this class is not a lot," he said.
"The plane was flying quite well and there were no complaints."
The overhaul was completed in December and included repairing the plane's three engines. The next major service was due in six years.
The Tupolev-154 was for more than a quarter of a century the backbone of Russia's and the Soviet Union's air transport system.
It carried about half the number of all passengers flown by Russia's national carrier Aeroflot and its successors in that time, with that number peaking at 137 million per year in 1990.
About 1,000 were built, and some remain in service in Russia and countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc.
The aircraft entered service in 1972 and was "modernised" in 1986, with new engines and equipment to improve its fuel consumption and flight operations.
But as an indication of its ageing design, the Chinese government decided in 2001 to withdraw the Tu-154 from its airlines.
Aeroflot took the decision to phase them out more recently, saying their high fuel consumption made them uneconomic.
An expert on Russian aviation, Paul Duffy, assessed the safety record of the Tu-154 in 2004, for the BBC News website.
Of 28 lost in accidents up to that date - a figure about normal for the quantity, years of service and technology of the type, in his view - few had crashed because of technical failure, he said.
"The Tu-154 operates in regions with not very good air traffic control and navigation equipment, and in very difficult weather conditions," he said at the time.
Some of the accidents had little relation to the aircraft itself, he added.
For example, in 1982, an aircraft landing at Omsk in Russia in a heavy snowstorm hit six snowploughs that had not been told to leave the runway as the aircraft landed.
About five had been shot down by enemy or terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Georgia and Afghanistan during the civil wars in those countries.
In 2001, a Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea after being hit by a Ukrainian missile fired during exercises.
One landed safely in a field after its cargo of cigarettes caught fire but was completely burnt.
Another ran out of fuel five miles short of the runway when the state airline of an almost bankrupt country decided to carry less fuel from its base, where the price was high.
And Swiss air controllers accepted full responsibility for a mid-air collision between a Tu-154 and a cargo plane in July 2002.
The Tu-154 is now no longer in production.
BBC Moscow correspondent Richard Galpin says Russian airlines are not interested in newer Tupolevs because they are not comparable with Western planes.
Aeroflot is now buying the vast majority of its aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.
|List of some of those who died in plane crash|
By The Associated Press (AP) – 5 hours ago
Some of those who died in the crash of Poland's presidential plane, according to the Law and Justice Party, founded by President Lech Kaczynshi.
Lech Kaczysnki — Polish president
Maria Kaczynska — The president's wife
Ryszard Kaczorowski — last president of the anti-Communist government-in-exile in London, 1989-90. The government-in-exile was set up after the prewar Warsaw government was forced to flee the Nazis in 1939.
Aleksander Szczyglo — head of the National Security Office and former defense minister
Pawel Wypych — presidential aide
Mariusz Handzlik — presidential aide
Jerzy Szmajdzinski — deputy parliament speaker and former defense minister
Andrzej Kremer — Deputy Foreign Minister
Gen. Franciszek Gagor — head of the army chief of staff
Andrzej Przewoznik — minister in charge of WWII memorials
Slawomir Skrzypek — head of the National Bank of Poland
Janusz Kurtyka — head of the National Remembrance Institute, a state body that investigates communist-era crimes
Przemyslaw Gosiewski — lawmaker
Zbigniew Wassermann — lawmaker
Grzegorz Dolniak — lawmaker
Janusz Kochanowski — civil rights commissioner
Bishop Tadeusz Ploski — army chaplain
(This version CORRECTS first name of Szmajdzinski.)_)
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
|According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the list of passengers entitled to fly the presidential plane TU-154 to Smolensk were:|
PREZYDENT LECH KACZYŃSKI President Lech Kaczynski
MARIA KACZYŃSKA Maria Kaczynska
RYSZARD KACZOROWSKI , ostatni prezydent RP na uchodźstwie Ryszard Kaczorowski , the last president in exile
KRZYSZTOF PUTRA , wicemarszałek Sejmu Krzysztof Putra , Deputy Speaker of the Sejm
KRYSTYNA BOCHENEK , wicemarszałek Senatu Krystyna Bochenek , deputy speaker of the Senate
JERZY SZMAJDZIŃSKI , wicemarszałek Sejmu Jerzy Szmajdzinski , Deputy Speaker of the Sejm
WŁADYSŁAW STASIAK , szef Kancelarii Prezydenta WŁADYSŁAW STASIAK , head of the Office of the President
ALEKSANDER SZCZYGŁO , szef Biura Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego Aleksander Szczyglo , head of the National Security Bureau
PAWEŁ WYPYCH , sekretarz stanu w Kancelarii Prezydenta PAUL WYPYCH state secretary in the Office of the President
STANISŁAW JERZY KOMOROWSKI, podsekretarz stanu w MON Stanislaw Jerzy Komorowski, Undersecretary of State for Defence
TOMASZ MERTA , podsekretarz stanu w Ministerstwie Kultury Tomasz Merta , Undersecretary, Ministry of Culture
MACIEJ PŁAŻYŃSKI , szef Stowarzyszenia Wspólnota Polska Maciej Plazynski , head of the Polish Community Association
MARIUSZ KAZANA, dyr. MARIUSZ Kazan, director. protokołu dyplomatycznego MSZ MFA Diplomatic Protocol
GEN. GEN. FRANCISZEK GĄGOR, szef sztabu generalnego WP FRANCIS Gągor, Chief of Staff HR
MARIUSZ HANDZLIK , podsekretarz stanu w Kancelarii Prezydenta Mariusz Handzlik , Undersecretary of State in the President's Office
ANDRZEJ KREMER, podsekretarz stanu w resorcie spraw zagranicznych Andrzej Kremer, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
ANDRZEJ PRZEWOŹNIK , sekretarz generalny Rady Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa ANDREW CARRIER , Secretary General of Council for the Protection of Monuments to Struggle and Martyrdom
PIOTR NUROWSKI , prezes Polskiego Komitetu Olimpijskiego Piotr Nurowski , president of the Polish Olympic Committee
JANUSZ KOCHANOWSKI , rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich Janusz Kochanowski , a spokesman for Citizens' Rights
SŁAWOMIR SKRZYPEK , prezes NBP Slawomir Skrzypek , president of the NBP
JANUSZ KURTYKA , prezes IPN Janusz Kurtyka , president of IPN
JANUSZ KRUPSKI, kierownik Urzędu ds. Kombatantów i Osób Represjonowanych JANUSZ Krupski, director of the Office for War Veterans and Repressed Persons
Posłowie i senatorowie: Members and Senators:
GRZEGORZ DOLNIAK GRZEGORZ Dolniak
LESZEK DEPTUŁA LESZEK Deptuła
GRAŻYNA GĘSICKA Grażyna Gęsicka
PRZEMYSŁAW GOSIEWSKI Przemyslaw Gosiewski
ZBIGNIEW WASSERMANN Zbigniew Wassermann
SEBASTIAN KARPINIUK SEBASTIAN KARPINIUK
IZABELA JARUGA-NOWACKA Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka
ALEKSANDRA NATALLI-ŚWIAT ALEKSANDRA Natallia-WORLD
ARKADIUSZ RYBICKI Arkadiusz Rybicki
JOLANTA SZYMANEK-DERESZ Jolanta Szymanek-Deresz
WIESŁAW WODA WIESŁAW WATER
EDWARD WOJTAS EDWARD Wojtas
JANINA FETLIŃSKA JANINA FETLIŃSKA
STANISŁAW ZAJĄC STANISLAW ZAJAC
Przedstawiciele kościołów i wyznań religijnych: Representatives of churches and denominations:
KS. KS. BP GEN. BP GEN. DYWIZJI TADEUSZ PŁOSKI , ordynariusz polowy WP Division WILLY Ploski , the Ordinary Field HR
KS. KS. ABP GEN. ABP GEN. BRYGADY MIRON CHODAKOWSKI , prawosławny ordynariusz WP BRIGADE Chodakowski Miron , the Orthodox Bishop of HR
KS. KS. PŁK ADAM PILCH, ewangelickie duszpasterstwo polowe Colonel Adam Pilch, evangelical ministry field
KS. KS. PPŁK JAN OSIŃSKI, ordynariat polowy WP Lt Col Jan OSIŃSKI, Ordinariate Field HR
KS. ROMAN INDRZEJCZYK , kapelan prezydenta KS. Indrzejczyk ROMAN , chaplain of the President
KS. KS. PRAŁAT BRONISŁAW GOSTOMSKI Monsignor BRONISŁAW Gostomski
KS. KS. JÓZEF JONIEC JOSEPH Joniec
KS. KS. ZDZISŁAW KRÓL KING COL
KS. KS. ANDRZEJ KWAŚNIK ANDRZEJ Kwasnik
Przedstawiciele Sił Zbrojnych RP: Representatives of the Polish Armed Forces:
GEN. GEN. BRONI BRONISŁAW KWIATKOWSKI, dowódca Sił Operacyjnych ARMS Mary Hopkin, the commander of Force Operations
GEN. GEN. ANDRZEJ BŁASIK, dowódca Sił Powietrznych Andrzej Błasik, commander of Air Force
GEN. GEN. TADEUSZ BUK , dowódca Sił Lądowych WILLY BUK , Commander of Land Forces
GEN. GEN. WOJCIECH POTASIŃSKI, dowódca Sił Specjalnych WOJCIECH POTASIŃSKI, commander of Special Forces
WICEADMIRAŁ ANDRZEJ KARWETA , dowódca Marynarki Wojennej Vice Admiral ANDRZEJ Karweta , commander of the Navy
GEN. GEN. KAZIMIERZ GILARSKI, dowódca Garnizonu Warszawa ARTHUR GILARSKI, commander of the Training Centre
Przedstawiciele Rodzin Katyńskich i innych stowarzyszeń Representatives of the Katyn Families and other associations
TADEUSZ LUTOBORSKI WILLY LUTOBORSKI
STEFAN MELAK STEPHEN Melaka
STANISŁAW MIKKE Stanisław Mikke
BRONISŁAWA ORAWIEC-LOFFLER BRONISLAWA Orawiec-Löffler
KATARZYNA PISKORSKA KATARZYNA Piskorska
ANDRZEJ SARJUSZ-SKĄPSKI ANDRZEJ SARJUSZ-SKĄPSKI
WOJCIECH SEWERYN WOJCIECH SEWERYN
LESZEK SOLSKI Leszek Solski
TERESA WALEWSKA-PRZYJAŁKOWSKA TERESA Walewska-PRZYJAŁKOWSKA
GABRIELA ZYCH GABRIELA Zych
EWA BĄKOWSKA EWA Bąkowska
ANNA MARIA BOROWSKA ANNA MARIA Borowska
BARTOSZ BOROWSKI BARTOSZ BOROWSKI
EDWARD DUCHNOWSKI EDWARD Duchnowski
ZENONA MAMONTOWICZ-ŁOJEK ZENON MAMONTOWICZ-Łojek
Osoby towarzyszące: Accompanying persons:
JOANNA AGACKA-INDECKA JOANNA AGACKA-Indeck
CZESŁAW CYWIŃSKI Czeslaw Cywinski
PPŁK. Lt.-Col. ZBIGNIEW DĘBSKI ZBIGNIEW Debski
KATARZYNA DORACZYŃSKA KATARZYNA DORACZYŃSKA
ALEKSANDER FEDOROWICZ ALEXANDER FEDOROWICZ
DARIUSZ JANKOWSKI DARIUSZ JANKOWSKI
GEN. GEN. BRYG. Brig. STANISŁAW KOMORNICKI STANISLAW Komornicki
JANUSZ KRUPSKI JANUSZ Krupski
WOJCIECH LUBIŃSKI WOJCIECH Lubiński
BARBARA MAMIŃSKA BARBARA MAMIŃSKA
JANIANA NATUSIEWICZ-MILLER NATUSIEWICZ-JOHN MILLER
KS. KS. RYSZRD RUMIANEK RYSZRD Chamomile
IZABELA TOMASZEWSKA Izabela Tomaszewska
ANNA WALENTYNOWICZ Anna Walentynowicz
JANUSZ ZAKRZEŃSKI Janusz Zakrzenski
Funkcjonariusze BOR Officers BOR
JAROSŁAW FLORCZAK Florczak JAROSŁAW
ARTUR FRANCUZ ARTHUR Frenchman
PAWEŁ JANECZEK PAUL Janeczek
PAWEŁ KRAJEWSKI Paul Krajewski
PIOTR NOSEK PETER nose
JACEK SURÓWKA JACEK Pig
MAREK ULERYK MAREK ULERYK
DARIUSZ MICHAŁOWSKI DARIUSZ MICHALOWSKI
Załoga samolotu Cabin
ARKADIUSZ PROTASIUK, kapitan Arkadiusz PROTASIUK, Captain
ROBERT GRZYWNA ROBERT FINE
ANDRZEJ MICHALAK ANDRZEJ MICHALAK
ARTUR ZIĘTEK ARTHUR Ziętek
BARBARA MACIEJCZYK BARBARA Maciejczyk
NATALIA JANUSZKO NATALIA JANUSZKO
JUSTYNA MONIUSZKO Justyna MONIUSZKO
|Kaczynski, nationalist reformer, dies in crash|
By Jan Cienski in Warsaw
Published: April 10 2010 13:18 | Last updated: April 10 2010 13:18
Lech Kaczynski, 60, built his political career as a right-wing nationalist by battling Russian influence in Poland and cultivating the memory of the suffering his country endured during world war two. He died Saturday morning outside the western Russian city of Smolensk, on his way to a memorial service at the Katyn forest, where 70 years ago the Soviets executed more than 4,000 Polish officers.
Kaczynski was elected president in 2005 on a platform of restoring Poland's national pride, battling what he saw as the baleful influence of big business and the communist-era secret police on Polish public life, and slowing market-oriented reforms he felt were harming Poland's poorest and most vulnerable.
The first two years of his presidency marked the apogee of influence for the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) he founded in 2001 with his twin brother Jaroslaw, as the the party formed the government and his brother became prime minister.
Parliamentary elections in 2007 brought the centrist Civic Platform government led by Donald Tusk, the current prime minister, to power, igniting a conflict over everything from who should represent the country at foreign summits, to the direction of economic and foreign policy that Kaczynski lost, which left the presidency much weaker than the government.
Kaczynski, in private a warm and often witty man, had a thin-skinned public persona that did not handle criticism well.
Kaczynski, whose parents fought against the Germans during the war, had a traditional patriotic and Roman Catholic upbringing. His first brush with fame came when he and his brother were 12, and were cast as the freckle-faced stars of a popular film: “Two boys who stole the moon”.
He entered opposition politics in 1976, and was a senior advisor to the Solidarity labour union, formed in 1980. He was interned by the communist authorities after martial law was declared in 1981, but after his release continued to be involved in the anti-communist underground as a close ally of Lech Walesa, the union's leader.
Kaczynski took part in the 1989 round-table negotiations that led to the end of communist rule that summer. He fell out with Mr Walesa in 1991, by then Poland's president. The Kaczynski twins were sidelined, and only began their return to power in 2000, when Lech was unexpectedly made justice minister in the centre-tight government of the time.
His hard-line approach to law enforcement struck a chord with public opinion increasingly dismayed at frequent high-level corruption, and Kaczynski became one of the country's most popular politicians. Elected mayor of Warsaw in 2002, his priority was the construction of a museum honouring the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Germans.
He also twice banned a gay pride parade from taking to the streets of Warsaw, which enormously appealed to his traditionalist right-wing electorate. It was that Catholic and nationalistic support that led him to victory in the 2005 presidential elections.
As president, Kaczynski devoted enormous energy to events like the commemoration of the Katyn massacre, as well as trying to weaken Russian influence in Ukraine, Georgia and other ex-Soviet republics, something he saw as key to strengthening Poland's long-term security.
In 2008, he travelled to Tbilisi, the embattled capital of Georgia which was then fighting Russia, in order to demonstrate his support for Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president. During that flight the pilot refused to land in Georgia for safety reasons, and, despite entreaties from the president, instead landed in neighbouring Azerbaijan.
Kaczynski also had an ambivalent view of the European Union, worrying about the loss of Poland's distinctiveness and fearing the rise of German influence. In the end, he helped negotiate the Lisbon treaty reforming the functioning of the EU, but later baulked at signing the pact.
Towards the end of his presidency, Kaczynski had seen his support shrivel to about a fifth of the electorate, and he looked certain to go down to defeat against Bronislaw Komorowski, the speaker of parliament and Civic Platform candidate in elections originally scheduled for this autumn.
Kaczynski's wife, Maria, an economist who softened his public image and was one of the country's most popular public figures, died with him in the air crash. They leave behind a daughter, Marta, and two grandchildren.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.
|Komorowski wins Polish presidential primary |
By Jan Cienski in Warsaw
Published: March 28 2010 23:33 | Last updated: March 28 2010 23:33
The presidential primary held by Poland’s ruling Civic Platform party has been won by Bronislaw Komorowski, the speaker of parliament, who soundly defeated Radoslaw Sikorski, the foreign minister, for the privilege of leading the party into this autumn’s election.
In the first contest of its kind in Poland, Mr Komorowski received 68.5 per cent of the votes of party members, while Mr Sikorski received 31.5 per cent, in results released Saturday. Only 47.7 per cent of the party’s 46,000 members bothered to cast a mail or internet ballot in a contest that had dominated the country’s media for weeks.
Mr Komorowski, a former defence minister who was active in the anti-communist opposition prior to the end of communist rule in 1989, appealed to party activists with his quiet style and his pledge to be a predictable presence in the presidential palace.
The Oxford educated Mr Sikorski, also a former defence minister, albeit for the right-wing Law and Justice party, which governed from 2005-2007, tried to appeal to younger party members. However, his recent arrival in Civic Platform, as well as a reputation for occasionally straying off the reservation with his comments, left him far behind his avuncular rival.
The primary was launched after Donald Tusk, the prime minister and undisputed leader of Civic Platform, decided not to run for president in January. Although he had tried and failed to win the office in 2005, losing to the current incumbent, Lech Kaczynski, Mr Tusk has since seen that heading the government is a much more powerful position than the presidency.
In deciding on a primary, Mr Tusk was keen to ensure that his replacement would be certain to defeat Mr Kaczynski. The current president has not been an ally of Mr Tusk, vetoing or threatening to veto legislation, and strongly supporting Law and Justice, headed by his twin brother Jaroslaw.
Opinion polls show that Mr Komorowski is far ahead of Mr Kaczynski. One taken after he won the primary showed Mr Komorowski with 38 per cent to 21 per cent for Mr Kaczynski.
If Mr Komorowski wins, Civic Platform, and by extension Mr Tusk, will have one of the strongest positions in Polish politics in the past two decades.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.
|Lech Kaczynski's legacy may be an end to Polish cycle of tragedy|
Despite the fatalism, the late president leaves behind the best Poland that arguably there has ever been
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 11 April 2010 13.01 BST
Poland is a place where tragedy often appears written into the national DNA. At the mercy of Russians and Germans for more than 200 years, the history is one of tears and blood, resistance and martyrdom.
It was while seeking to remember some of those martyrs, the victims of one of Moscow's greatest crimes against the Poles in Katyn forest in 1940, that the president, Lech Kaczynski, and a large slice of the Polish elite lost their lives yesterday. The irony could not be crueller. To many Poles, the national jinx has struck again. "That place is damned," said Kaczynski's predecessor as head of state, Alexander Kwasniewski.
Against the national and historical backdrop of heroic failure ‑ epitomised by the moving Museum of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, built when Kaczynski was mayor of the Polish capital ‑ Poles can be forgiven for their fatalism this morning. But the current reality is not one of failure, rather of success in building the best Poland that arguably there has ever been ‑ a success in which Kaczynski and his twin brother, Jaroslaw, have played pivotal if polarising roles.
In the great financial and economic slump of the last two years, Poland stands alone among the 27 countries of the European Union in not having fallen into recession. For the first time in its history, the country is where it wants to be, firmly embedded in the west. A key and increasingly influential member of the EU, a stalwart friend of the US, a member of Nato, Poland is a boisterous, stable, independent democracy.
For years after it led the way in destroying Soviet communism in 1989, Poland seemed fated for a future as the Italy of eastern Europe, a constant kaleidoscope of shifting politics and collapsing governments. But over the last decade the chaos has matured into a working three-party system: the left, comprising modern social democrats and fading remnants of the ancien regime; the liberal centrists of the governing Civic Platform, under the prime minister, Donald Tusk; and the nationalist conservative right, consolidated and led by the Kaczynski brothers.
The twins' high point came in 2005-07, when Lech cohabited with brother Jaroslaw's governing Law and Justice party. It was an unhappy and salutary experience characterised by paranoia, prickliness and troublemaking at home and abroad. Were it not for yesterday's tragedy, the political demise of the Kaczynskis would probably have been sealed in October when Bronislaw Komorowski, a patriotic liberal, looked likely to unseat Lech as president. As parliamentary speaker, Komorowski is now acting president and looks like a shoo-in for the early presidential election in June.
The Kaczynskis embody a large and legitimate constituency in Poland: chippy and prickly, wary of Germany, hostile to Russia, Eurosceptic and staunchly pro-American, obsessed with "moral renewal" at home. Given the history, it is no surprise. But their emphasis on righting history's wrongs is backward-looking, while the young, the cities, and the elites [not the deceased, obviously] of Poland live in the present, relishing a better future for their children.
Last week, the Polish and Russian prime ministers met for the first time at Katyn in an attempt to put an awful past behind them. It was a qualified success. But there can be no big breakthrough, only an incremental process of small steps and benign gestures.
Yesterday, Donald Tusk and Vladimir Putin met again amid the carnage of Smolensk, again united in grief. Improbable as it seems, Lech Kaczynski's legacy may be to bring Warsaw and Moscow closer and to help Poland to break the tragic cycle of its history.
|Poland eyes June 20 vote, post-crash cracks emerge |
Reuters Gabriela Baczynska and Pawel Sobczak
Poland's ruling party said on Wednesday that presidential elections were likely to be held on June 20 as protests grew over the choice of a burial site for late president Lech Kaczynski.
Some Poles reacted with fury to plans unveiled on Tuesday by a senior cardinal to bury the late president and his wife Maria at Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, a place normally reserved for national heroes, poets and kings.
The uproar exposed the first cracks in the display of national unity that has followed Kaczynski's death in a plane crash, days before world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are expected in Poland for the Sunday funeral.
A total of 96 people died in the crash near Smolensk in western Russia on Saturday, including Polish military commanders, top opposition figures and the central bank governor.
Kaczynski and his entourage had been travelling to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of more than 20,000 Polish officers by Soviet secret police in the Katyn forest.
Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Warsaw to welcome his body home at the weekend and people have queued in the rain for hours to get a glimpse of the first couple's coffins at the presidential palace in the capital.
But the burial plans sparked a sharp reaction. Support for Kaczynski, a polarising nationalist and eurosceptic, had dwindled to 20 percent before his death.
"HASTY AND EMOTIONAL"
Leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza called the decision "hasty and emotional" in a front-page editorial. Andrzej Wajda, the influential, Oscar-winning Polish director of a film on the Katyn tragedy, wrote to the paper urging the decision on the burial site be reversed.
Acting President Bronislaw Komorowski, the lower house speaker and the presidential candidate of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centrist Civic Platform (PO), held talks on Wednesday with political parties to set a date for the presidential poll.
They agreed to push back a final decision until next week. A leading PO official said the poll would most likely take place on June 20.
Under the rules of the Polish constitution, the election must be held within 60 days of the date announcement and the slight delay gives right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), led by Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw, and the main leftist SLD party extra time to find candidates.
SLD's presidential candidate also died in the plane crash.
A spokesman for Russia's Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 64 victims of the crash had now been formally identified and that the remains of 30 were to be repatriated to Poland.
In addition to Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are due to attend the funeral of Kaczynski and his wife in Krakow, the seat of Polish monarchs up until the end of the 16th century.
About 500 people staged a noisy protest in central Krakow late on Tuesday against the decision to bury the couple at the Wawel Cathedral, waving banners that read "Not Krakow, not Wawel" and "Are you sure he (Kaczynski) is the equal of kings?."
MORE PROTESTS PLANNED
More protests were scheduled for Wednesday evening in Krakow, Warsaw and three other cities. Poles also organised protest campaigns on social media site Facebook.
By Wednesday afternoon, the group "No to the Kaczynskis burial in Wawel" had attracted over 30,000 fans.
"If President Kaczynski had died of natural causes he would never have been buried in Wawel," Jerzy Meysztowicz, an entrepreneur and PO politician in Krakow, told Reuters. "All the president's faults will soon be in the spotlight and in many cases sorrow will turn to hate."
Allies of the late president defended the decision, which was made after consultations on Tuesday between the church and family members, including Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Wawel is a large complex of buildings on the Vistula river in Krakow that includes a castle, cathedral and fortifications, and traces its roots as a centre of political power back to the end of the first millennium.
As well as Polish kings, the Wawel crypt also contains the bodies of legendary military commander Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought in the U.S. war of independence, Poland's wartime leader Wladyslaw Sikorski and national poet Adam Mickiewicz.
(Additional reporting by Wojciech Zurawski in Krakow, Dagmara Leszkowicz in Warsaw; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
|Delaying Polish funeral over ash cloud "last resort" |
Delaying Sunday's planned funeral for Polish President Lech Kaczynski because of a volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe would be a "last resort," an official at the presidential administration said on Friday.
Jacek Sasin, who had earlier mooted the possibility of a delay, said senior officials would meet later on Friday to analyse the situation and would then make a final decision.
The huge ash cloud has spread across northern Europe since the volcano began erupting on Wednesday, closing airports and stranding hundreds of thousands of travellers.
U.S. President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders are due to attend Kaczynski's funeral at Krakow's Wawel cathedral in southern Poland. Krakow airport was one of only two in Poland still open on Friday morning because of the cloud.
"A scenario to delay (the funeral), that kind of scenario does not exist. It's not being discussed... This would be the last resort. For now we're monitoring the situation," Sasin told reporters.
"This afternoon there will be a meeting at the prime minister's office and I believe the decision will be made then."
Kaczynski, his wife and scores of senior Polish officials were killed in a plane crash last Saturday, plunging Poland into deep mourning.
The White House said late on Thursday Obama's weekend trip to Poland was, for the moment, expected to go ahead despite the ash.
"It's something that we are keeping an eye on. Right now, our schedule is still on. We have every intention of making it to Poland," Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters.
He said he had spoken to U.S. Air Force officials, adding: "They felt confident that they'll be able to make that trip, but it's something we're watching and obviously cognizant of."
Volcanic ash contains tiny particles of glass and pulverised rock that can damage engines and airframes.
Polish authorities had intended to fly the coffins of the First Couple to Krakow on Saturday afternoon after a planned memorial service in Warsaw. They are currently on public view in the presidential palace.
Apart from Obama, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prince Charles, Spain's King Juan Carlos and many other heads of state and government and royalty were due to attend the funeral.
(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
|Poland closes air space due to volcanic ash|
By MATT MOORE and MONIKA SCISLOWSKA (AP) – 1 hour ago
WARSAW, Poland — Polish officials have closed the airport where numerous world leaders are expected this weekend for the state funeral of the president killed in a plane crash last Saturday, but no plans to delay the event have been revealed.
The decision came as Polish investigators began examining one of three black boxes from the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people, after Russian officials said their study of the boxes suggested pilot error was to blame.
Justyna Zajaczkowska, a spokeswoman for Krakow Balice Airport, told The Associated Press that the airport was closed to all traffic "indefinitely" because of the spreading volcanic ash cloud emanating from Iceland.
Despite the closure, she said, "preparations to receive" world leaders on Sunday were continuing, as the government said it had no firm plans, yet, to postpone Sunday's state funeral in Krakow.
"A two-day perspective ahead of the arrival of those planes is a relatively long time and it is hard to say how the situation will influence the arrivals," Zajaczkowska said. "All we can do is wait."
Presidential Palace spokesman Jacek Sasisn said there had been no discussion so far of postponing the funeral, but "theoretically, there exists such an option." Any delay would be an "absolute last resort."
Among world leaders who said they would come to the funeral are President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedv and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Late Thursday, the White House said Obama still planned to fly to Poland on Saturday.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton said, "It's something that we're keeping an eye on. Right now, our schedule is still on."
Poland is preparing a tradition-laden funeral for Kaczynski and his wife, who were among the 96 people killed when their plane clipped a birch tree on approach to Smolensk. They were headed to the airport for a commemoration of the systematic execution of thousands of World War II Polish army officers by the forerunner of the Soviet secret police in 1940.
The investigation into the crash is moving fairly quickly, aviation experts said, but some Poles have complained about a lack of public information, including the transcript of conversation in the cockpit before the accident.
The black boxes, recovered from the wreckage of the Tu-154 that crashed last Saturday while approaching the airport in Smolensk, Russia, will be examined for more clues as to why the crash happened, but investigators from Russia and Poland have said human error was the likely cause.
According to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the Interstate Aviation Committee said the preliminary investigation had found the plane hit some trees about 1,050 meters (yards) from the paved runway.
"After 200 meters, the left wing of the plane struck a tree, as a consequence of which the plane sharply heeled and turned over to the left," the report said. "The main mass of fragments of the airliner are about 300-350 meters from the runway and about 150 meters to the left of it."
Jerzy Artymiak, spokesman for Polish military prosecutors, said the other two boxes are still being examined in Russia.
Investigators had hoped to disclose contents of the flight recordings on Thursday, but Artymiak said they now plan to wait until after the weekend memorial ceremonies.
Last weekend, the pilot of the Tupolev 154 carrying Kaczynski and the others had been warned of bad weather in Smolensk and advised by air traffic controllers to land elsewhere — which would have delayed the Katyn observances. Some in Poland have speculated that the pilots ignored the risks in order to keep President Kaczynski on schedule for a memorial for Polish officers executed by Soviet secret police in the Katyn forest in 1940.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
|Black box from crashed Polish jet contains “dramatic” recordings|
By Lynn Herrmann.
A black box recording of the Polish jet crash in Russia that killed all 96 on board, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, shows pilots knew the “inevitability” of the crash after the plane’s wings clipped fog-shrouded tree tops.
According to BBC, Russian investigators stated the pilots ignored repeated warnings from air traffic controllers to land at an alternate airport. The Tu-154 jet crashed last Saturday, killing the Polish president, his wife, and many high-ranking Polish government officials.
Andrzej Seremet, Polish chief prosecutor, stated on Polish radio: "The crew was aware of the inevitability of the coming catastrophe, if only due to the plane shaking after the wings hit the trees - which we are certain happened."
No evidence has been found that “any of the high-ranking passengers forced the pilots to land near Smolensk,” an unnamed source, close to the investigation, has stated in Moscow on Thursday.
The source added: "The panel's analysis, namely data from the black boxes, shows that it was the pilot's mistake that caused the crash."
Chief military prosecutor Krzysztof Parulski has rejected the Russian report, calling it “speculation” and no conclusions should be drawn in an ongoing investigation.
However, Col. Zbigniew Rzepa, a military prosecutor with the Polish government, said pilots were aware of the impending crash as the final seconds of the voice recording “were dramatic.” There was no further elaboration.
One of three black boxes recovered from the crash has been returned to Polish officials. The other two continue to be examined by officials in Moscow, according to Jerzy Artymiak, spokesman for the Polish prosecutors’ office.
Poland is in national mourning this week. President Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, will be given a state funeral in Krakow on Sunday, with many of the world’s leaders set to attend.
A state funeral for other victims of the crash will be held on Saturday.
Although investigators had hoped to disclose information from the black boxes on Thursday, an official release will occur after the week-end’s funerals, Mr. Artymiak added.
Reuters - Yesterday, 01:45 pm
Bronislaw Komorowski, speaker of the Parliament and presidential candidate from Civic Platform (PO) waves to supporters at his Party election headquarters in Warsaw June 20, 2010. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
|Komorowski leads in Polish vote |
Yesterday, 09:01 am
Reuters Dagmara Leszkowicz and Chris Borowski
Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland's ruling pro-business Civic Platform (PO), won most votes in the first round of the presidential election but results pointed to a tight run-off vote on July 4.
Komorowski, who is speaker of parliament and also Poland's acting president, won 41 percent of the vote against 37 percent for his main rival, right-wing opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, results from 94 percent of polling stations showed.
Investors and financial markets would prefer a Komorowski victory because he would be expected to work smoothly with Prime Minister Donald Tusk's economically liberal government in tackling Poland's big budget deficit and preparing the country for eventual euro adoption.
Komorowski also shares Tusk's vision of a Poland firmly anchored in the European mainstream, working closely with Germany and other EU partners and trying to improve long troubled ties with Russia, its communist-era overlord.
The election was forced by the death of Kaczynski's identical twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, along with 95 others, mostly senior political and military officials, in a plane crash in Russia on April 10.
Kaczynski is a combative nationalist opposed to joining the euro any time soon and distrustful of the EU, Russia and Germany. He has also urged stimulus packages to counter the economic slowdown but Tusk has followed more cautious policies.
Poland's relations with Berlin, Moscow and Brussels nosedived during Kaczynski's stint as prime minister in 2006-07, when his brother Lech as president reinforced Warsaw's image in the European arena as a difficult country to work with.
Tusk fears that Kaczynski as president would continue his brother's habit of blocking key reforms.
"Should Bronislaw Komorowski now win the second round of elections, and I assume he can, the government will no longer be able to blame the presidential veto as the main obstacle to launching fiscal consolidation," said Rafal Benecki, senior economist at ING Bank in Warsaw.
The biggest prize for both candidates will be the support of the leftist electorate after Sunday's surprisingly strong showing by Grzegorz Napieralski, the candidate of the former communist SLD party, who won the backing of 14 percent of Poles.
"If there are to be any discussions (about my support), then they would be about values and not the position of a deputy prime minister," Napieralski said in a radio interview on Monday. "Now is the time for some deliberation."
After a subdued election campaign in the shadow of the presidential plane crash and then of floods that deluged parts of Poland last month, analysts expect both candidates to rev up their efforts in the next two weeks.
Kaczynski softened his prickly image after the death of his brother and called for cooperation across the political spectrum, but on Sunday evening after the exit polls came out he said Poland faced a stark choice in the runoff vote.
"This should be a round in which a choice will be made between two visions of politics, two visions of Poland, because there are differences... We see the country's future differently, we see differently the path to its success," he told supporters.
(Editing by Gareth Jones and Matthew Jones)