Russia blames Polish pilot for Kaczynski air crash
Published 13/01/2011 | 06:11
Russian investigators yesterday pinned much of the blame for the plane crash which killed the Polish President last year on the chief of his air force who had been drinking and ordered the crew to land in terrible weather conditions.
The report into the crash which killed Lech Kaczynski and 95 others was released along with a chilling cockpit recording which ends with terrified screams as a voice from the plane's on-board navigation system repeatedly says: "Pull up".
The outcome of the report threatened long-troubled relations between the two countries, which had eased in the aftermath of the crash. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late President's twin brother, and leader of Poland's main opposition party, called the report a "mockery of Poland". Many Poles have suggested that Russian airport dispatchers were partially to blame for the crash.
Mr Kaczynski, his wife, and other leading Polish politicians and military officials died when the presidential jet crashed into forested ground short of the runway at Smolensk last April. The delegation had been heading to a memorial ceremony at Katyn, the site of a 1940 massacre of Polish officers by Josef Stalin's secret police.
Investigators told reporters in Moscow yesterday that the pilots knew of the appalling weather conditions and released recordings in which ground control could be heard warning against a landing. They said the pilots were pressured into the landing by General Andrzej Blasik, the Polish Air Force commander.
They said he had an elevated blood-alcohol level that would have affected his reasoning, and the pilots would have been worried that failing to land would anger the "main passenger".