Crash report angers Kaczynski twin

Late Polish president's brother says Russian report blaming Poles for last year's plane crash makes "mockery of Poland".

    Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late Polish president's brother, said the Russian report was a 'mockery of Poland' [AFP]

    Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late Polish president and head of the country's opposition, has criticised a report by Russian investigators blaming errors made by the flight crew for the plane crash that killed Lech Kaczynski and 95 others near the city of Smolensk in northwestern Russia.

    He said on Wednesday that the report was a "mockery of Poland" that unfairly puts all the blame on Poles without offering convincing evidence.

    Earlier during the day, Tatyana Anodina, head of the Moscow-based aviation commission investigating last April's crash, said that the crew ignored advice to land at a different airport, saying they were pressured by top Polish officials to land despite warning.

    She said the presence in the cockpit of high-ranking officials 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.

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

    She said 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 that had landed there earlier.

    "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."

    Investigators said that Poland's air force commander, General Andrzej Blasik, who was in the cockpit, had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.06 per cent, enough to impair reasoning.


    Kaczynski criticised that conclusion, saying that a suggestion of pressure on the pilots is an example of speculation based only on what "some psychologists are saying'' with no confirmation from the flight recorders.

    Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from Moscow, said that the report blames President 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."

    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.

    While it has been clear all along that the pilots' decision to land in heavy fog at an airport with only basic navigation equipment was the main reason for the crash, Poles were eagerly awaiting the report to learn if other factors, such as possible mistakes by Russian air traffic controllers or technical conditions at the Russian airport, might have played a role as well.

    There was a broad expectation in Poland that Russia would acknowledge some responsibility and the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, expressed anger last month at an earlier draft by Russian investigators that also reportedly put responsibility only on Poles.

    However, our correspondent said that independent experts have already said that Russian air traffic controllers could not be blamed for the crash.

    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.

    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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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