Poland honors late president and other plane crash victims

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ceremonies were held in Poland on Sunday honoring late President Lech Kaczynski and the 95 others who were killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, amid revived allegations that the crash was a conspiracy by Russia and Poland’s government at the time.

The allegations come from the ruling Law and Justice party led by the late president’s twin, which took all power in Poland last year and is using the opportunity to pursue its views regarding the crash.

“We owe (the victims) an honest and thorough examination of what happened then, without unnecessary political quarrels,” President Andrzej Duda said during the observances. “Let the experts do it in peace and in a sense of responsibility.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his followers claim they have evidence that “almost certainly” proves that the president’s plane fell into pieces in midair from an attack as it was preparing to land at Smolensk airport. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has said the crash was an act of terrorism perpetrated by Russia.

The theory is fueled by Moscow’s refusal to return the wreckage to Poland, while Russia’s prosecutors say they are trying to determine whether anyone is guilty of the crash. Moscow has denounced the terrorism allegations as “absurd” and official investigations by Poland’s and Russia’s aviation experts have concluded that the crash was an accident caused by errors of the crew trying to land in heavy fog.

But Law and Justice also claims that Donald Tusk, who was prime minister at the time, and his government neglected the security of the president and later failed to conduct a proper, international investigation. The party also claims that Tusk’s team failed to properly honor the fallen president and other members of the nation’s elite. Tusk, now European Union president, and his party are denying the allegations.

“The Smolensk tragedy and the events before and after it were a dramatic evidence of the poor quality of our state, of poor management, of mistakes,” Duda said about Poland in 2010. A team of Polish lawmakers recently opened a new probe intended to name those responsible for the crash which was the country’s worst national disaster since World War II. Kaczynski’s opponents say he is launching a witch hunt.

On Sunday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, other government officials, victims’ families and hundreds of Poles were taking part in prayers and wreaths’ laying at the victims’ graves and memorials. Observances were also held at the crash site in Russia.

Among the victims were lawmakers from various political parties, armed forces’ commanders and the last president of the Polish government-in-exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski. They were flying to Russia for observances honoring Polish officers killed in the forest of Katyn and elsewhere by the Soviet secret police in 1940. For five decades, Moscow refused to acknowledge responsibility for those crimes, and the subject was also taboo under Moscow-backed communist rule in Poland until 1989.

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