‘The elite of Poland have been struck down just as they were 70 years ago,’ said former Polish President, Lech Walesa of the plane crash that claimed the sitting Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and most of Poland’s top government officials. The plane was en route to a commemoration of the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish government officials before it crashed over Smolensk, Russia.
The UK’s Daily Mail reports that the Russian government prevented the plane from landing four times. Arthur Gorski, a prominent Polish politician, alleges that the plane was denied permission to land at Smolensk Airport for a host of “dubious” reasons such a fog, inadequate landing strip size and equipment problems. They attempted to redirect the plane to alternative Russian airports which, incidentally, would likely have impaired the President’s timely arrival at the memorial event.
Accusations of Russia’s culpability are not in terms of equipment sabotage or military aggression, but by instigating a chaotic landing environment which culminated in the uneventful crash. Kaczynski, is a staunch anti-communist and former freedom-fighter. Some Poles surmise that Russia’s actions were in an effort to prevent Kaczynski from appearing at the commemoration of the Katyn massacre which he was not invited to attend (another Polish leader, Donald Tusk, was invited by the former KGB member, Vladimir Putin.) The slaughter of some 22,000 Polish nationals at Katyn Forest in Russia has been a source of tension between the two nations for decades.
However, none of these uncanny circumstances are a clear indictment of intentional malice on behalf of Russian officials — far from it. Evidence does support foggy landing conditions which the outmoded aircraft carrying the ill-fated Poles was not as capable of combatting compared to more sophisticate planes. Language issues between the flight crew and Russian ground control may have compounded events. We will undoubtedly learn more when (or if) recorded transmissions of the flight are made public.