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Poland prolongs investigation into Smolensk plane crash

April 07, 2012, 1:11 UTC+3

Poland’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office has put off the date of completion of investigation into the air crash near Smolensk for another six months

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WARSAW, April 7 (Itar-Tass) — Poland’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office has put off the date of completion of investigation into the 2010 air crash near Smolensk for another six months, spokesman Zbigniew Rzepa said on Friday. He added that the original period of investigation would be extended from April 10 to October 10, 2012.

The district prosecutor’s office in Warsaw launched an investigation into facts that had unintentionally led to the air crash almost two years ago. The accident killed all the passengers on board of the TU-154M flight, board number 101, of the Polish armed forces, including the then Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the crew. Two officers of the 36th special regiment who were responsible for transporting the state’s top officials were charged in August 2011.

Russia is carrying out its own simultaneous investigation alongside its Polish partners. Russian and Polish investigative bodies are sharing documents and materials on the basis of legal assistance requests. Russian and Polish investigators are ready to have a working meeting soon.

Polish prosecutors say the Russian Investigation Committee is still studying the plane fragments, one of the main pieces of forensic evidence behind the Smolensk plane crash. The Polish side demands that the plane fragments be handed over to Poland as soon as possible. This is the main reason why the investigation has to be prolonged. Polish Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin will raise the subject during his forthcoming visit to Moscow in May.

“The fact that two years after the crash the plane fragments haven’t returned to Poland is a serious problem in Polish-Russian relations. We hope to get the fragments without delay,” the Polish justice minister went on to say.

The TU-154M flight crashed near Smolensk on April 10, 2010, killing all the 96 people onboard, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Experts from the Inter-State Aviation Committee concluded that the accident had been caused by human error. The crew members who were subject to psychological pressure took the wrong decision to land in unfavorable weather conditions. The Polish report on the accident says that apart from lowering to an impermissibly low altitude, the crew made other errors. For example, the pilot ignored the signals of the Terrain Awareness and Warning Signal (TAWS).

Commemorative events devoted to the second anniversary of the Smolensk plane crash will be held in Smolensk and in Polish cities on April 10.

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