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Poland president's burial stirs row
Plan to bury Lech Kaczynski in castle where country's kings lie divides nation.
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2010 19:55 GMT
Wawel castle traces its roots as a centre of political power back to the end of the first millennium [AFP]

Plans to bury Poland's late president in a castle where kings have been interred has triggered divisions across a nation still mourning the death of its leader.

The funeral of Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who were killed in a plane crash in Russia on the weekend, is expected to take place this Sunday at Wawel castle in the southern city of Krakow.

But the choice of site has sparked anger among some groups, triggering protests on the streets and campaigns on social networking websites.

In a rare breach of the unity seen in Poland since Saturday's crash, several hundred people gathered in Krakow late on Tuesday crying "Not in the Wawel" and waving banners reading "Is he fit to be a king?"

'Sorrow will turn to hate'

Poles also organised protest campaigns on social media site Facebook, with a group called "No to the Kaczynskis burial in Wawel" attracting over 30,000 fans.

"If President Kaczynski had died of natural causes he would never have been buried in Wawel," Jerzy Meysztowicz, a Civic Platform (PO) politician in Krakow, told Reuters.

in depth

  Obituary: Lech Kaczynski
  World leaders mourn Poland's loss
  Video: Nation in mourning
  Blog: Chill falls over Poland

"All the president's faults will soon be in the spotlight and in many cases sorrow will turn to hate."

The leading Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza also opposed the move, calling the decision "hasty and emotional" in a front page editorial.

But allies of the late president defended the decision, which was made after consultations on Tuesday between the church and family members, including Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's brother.

Wawel is a large complex of buildings on the Vistula river that includes a castle, cathedral and fortifications, and traces its roots as a centre of political power back to the end of the first millennium.

As well as Polish kings, the Wawel crypt also contains the bodies of legendary military commander Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought in the US war of independence, Poland's wartime leader Wladyslaw Sikorski, and national poet Adam Mickiewicz.

World leaders to attend

Sunday's funeral is expected to be attended by a number of world leaders, including Barack Obama, the US president, and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart.

A total of 96 people died in the crash near Smolensk in western Russia on Saturday, including Polish military commanders, top opposition figures and the central bank governor.

Kaczynski and his entourage had been travelling to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet secret police near Smolensk when his plane went down in thick fog.

Elections to replace the president are expected to take place on June 20, but no formal announcement has been made.

Source:
Agencies
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