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Polish leader takes control of army

Poland's new president has formally taken control of the nation's military and unveiled a plaque to the victims of the plane crash that killed his predecessor and 95 other people.

Bronislaw Komorowski, who as the country's president is commander in chief, assumed command of the armed forces on Army Day, the August 15 holiday that honours a stunning Polish victory against Russian Bolsheviks in 1920.

In a ceremony at Warsaw's central Pilsudski Square, Komorowski knelt at a military banner and kissed it as he was surrounded by soldiers. The event was marked by military pomp, including a parade, the playing of trumpets and the firing of cannons.

Komorowski was sworn in as Poland's new president more than a week ago, making him the fourth democratically elected head of state since Poland threw off communism, and the successor to Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in the plane crash in Russia.

A bitter political and religious dispute is raging over how to memorialise Kaczynski and the other victims.

The focus of controversy has been a large wooden cross in front of the presidential palace, which Kaczynski's supporters have surrounded around the clock for many days. They want to keep the cross there until a major memorial is built to the victims and have prevented authorities from moving it to a nearby church.

Komorowski and many secular-minded Poles object to the cross because they say a public building is not the right place for a religious symbol in a country that by law is defined as secular.

On Saturday some supporters were removed to make way for the parade, though the cross was left in place. Nevertheless, protesters reacted by erecting a second cross across the street from the palace.

Komorowski has taken steps in recent days to try to appease the self-described "defenders of the cross". Earlier this week he had a plaque to the victims - engraved with a small cross - put up on the presidential palace. And he unveiled yet another plaque at the Field Cathedral of the Polish army to the plane crash victims, who included some of the country's top military officers.


From Belfast Telegraph