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Russia: Polish crew caused crash
Controversial report by Russian investigators blames flight crew for plane crash that killed Polish president Kaczynski.
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2011 11:32 GMT
Rescuers inspect the wreckage of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed on April 10, 2010 [AFP]

Russian investigators have blamed errors made by the flight crew for the plane crash that killed Lech Kaczynski, Poland's president, and 95 others near the city of Smolensk in northwestern Russia.

Tatyana Anodina, head of the Moscow-based aviation commission investigating the tragedy, said on Wednesday that the crew ignored advice to land at a different airport, saying they were pressured by top Polish officials in the cockpit of the Tu-154 plane to land despite warning.

"The presence in the cockpit of high-ranking officials - Poland's air force chief and head of protocol - and an expected negative reaction from the main passenger put psychological pressure on crew members and affected decision-making regarding the continuation of landing under any conditions," she said.

She did not identify the "main passenger" but it appears she was referring to president Kaczynski.

In the course of the flight, the crew "repeatedly received information about the absence of adequate weather conditions" from the Severny airport in Smolesnk and a crew of a Yak-40 plane plane that had landed there earlier, she added.

"Despite this, the Tu-154 crew did not make a decision to land at a substitute airport. This fact can be considered the start of a critical situation during the flight," she said.

'Shocking report'

Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from Moscow, said that the report blames Kaczynski himself for the crash.

"For many Poles this report will be absolutely shocking," he said.

"It claims that President Kaczynski told the commander of the air-force, who was on the plane, to go into the cockpit and tell the pilot to land."

Lee said that many in the Polish government have already rejected the initial findings of this investigation, but independent experts have already said that Russian air traffic controllers could not be blamed for the crash.

Anodina also said that the pilots operating the plane had "substantial deficiencies" in their training.

"In course of carrying out the important flight there were substantial deficiencies in the training of the crew, in controlling the preparation for the flight, and choosing a substitute airfield," she said.

Kaczynski died with 95 others when his presidential jet crashed on April 10, 2010, as it attempted to land in fog near the city of Smolensk in northwestern Russia.

Report rejected

Poland and its Soviet-era master Russia have had uneasy relations since the demise of Communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

But the crash and subsequent investigation have soon become highly politicised, with Poland sharply criticising Russia's handling of the crash probe.

After initially praising Moscow's cooperation, Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, changed tack, calling the draft findings of the Russian investigation unacceptable and riddled with errors.

Earlier this month Poland's ambassador to Russia Wojciech Zajaczkowski called for Moscow to return the wreckage of its presidential plane as soon as possible.

The Polish presidential Russian-made Tupolev-154 crashed as it landed for a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of a World War II massacre of around 22,000 captured Polish officers by the Soviet secret police.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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