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Russia disputes Polish crash investigation
Chief investigator blames "crew failure" over 2010 plane crash that left 96 people dead, including Poland's president.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2011 18:48

A Russian investigation has dismissed a Polish report saying that confusing guidance by Russian air traffic controllers was partly to blame for the 2010 crash of a Polish presidential plane.

Alexei Morozov, the head of the Interstate Aviation Committee's panel that investigated the crash, said on Tuesday that the controllers had given the crew precise guidance before the plane crashed.

"The main cause of the accident was the crew's failure to take the timely decision to divert to a secondary airport despite timely warnings and poor weather conditions," he said.

Morozov also said that the airport's radar and lights were functioning normally, contrary to Polish investigators' assertions.

The accident on April 10, 2010, killed Lech Kaczynski, Poland's president, and 95 other people, including the first lady and dozens of senior officials.

Morozov and other Russian experts were responding to Friday's Polish government report that said confusing and erroneous guidance by controllers at Russia's Smolensk airport had contributed to the crash.

The crash occurred in heavy fog near the western city of Smolensk, 360km southwest of Moscow.

Morozov reaffirmed his panel's conclusion that the crash occurred because the crew descended below a safe altitude while attempting an emergency landing.

Polish investigators found that the Tu-154 plane was flying about 60m lower than the pilots believed in the moments before the plane clipped a tree and crashed.

The Polish commission said the Russian air traffic controllers confirmed the plane was on the right course for descent, information that made the crew continue in the false belief it was making a proper approach.

Cockpit visit

Polish investigators have confirmed that the Polish air force's chief was in the cockpit shortly before the crash, but said that did not play a role in the accident.

Morozov on Tuesday reiterated that the Russian commission believes the Polish official put pressure on the crew.

The Russian investigator conceded there were some equipment flaws and the absence of some flight parameters in the airport control room, but he insisted that played no role in the crash.

"The deficiencies in the equipment had no relation to the cause of the crash," Morozov said.

The Polish report put a portion of blame on the Russians, but most of it on Polish officials and procedures.

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich, whose ministry oversaw the training of the crew of the 2010 flight, resigned last weekend.

The Polish plane crashed when Kaczynski and his delegation were on their way to honour about 22,000 Polish officers killed during World War II by Stalin's secret police, a crime known as the Katyn massacres.

The symbolism of the plane disaster occurring on such a mission added another layer of Polish national grief and resentment in the weeks and months after the crash.

Source:
Agencies
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