Suspicions linger two years after death of Polish president

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Two years after a plane crash in Russia killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of government officials and military leaders, some Poles refuse to accept Polish and Russian investigators’ conclusions that the crash was caused by weather and pilot error.

Opposition figures and conspiracy theorists protested outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw on Monday, the eve of the anniversary of the crash that killed Kaczynski, his wife and 94 others en route to a memorial for victims of a Stalin-era massacre in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother and leader of the conservative Law and Justice Party, has speculated since shortly after the April 10, 2010, crash that the plane may have been targeted by Russia in retaliation for Poland’s opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy.

The surviving Kaczynski twin, a former prime minister, last week alluded to reports that there had been explosions on the Russian-built Tupolev-154 before it crashed and that ‘this catastrophe looks increasingly like an assassination.’ He accused fellow Poles of submitting to ‘a forced amnesia’ about the crash and called for an independent probe by the European Union.


Supporters of Kaczynski’s opposition party burned an effigy of Putin outside of the embassy Monday and staged demonstrations in front of the offices of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski, the Associated Press reported.

Many Poles remain deeply suspicious of their giant neighbor, resentful that the Soviet Union partitioned Poland with Nazi Germany at the start of World War II and then enforced communist rule for more than four decades.

Russia’s government hasn’t officially responded to Kaczynski’s persistent insinuations of foul play. The Voice of Russia radio network said ‘the anguish of the Polish people resonates with us,’ but urged that the tragedy ‘should not drive a wedge between us.’

A memorial was planned at the crash site Tuesday, commemorating the victims of the aviation disaster and those of the Stalinist massacre at Katyn 72 years ago.


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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles